The Case for Cropping
In an ideal world, I agree that a full crop picture is better than one that is cropped. But in the real world, that does not always happen. And to take the critical shot only if a full crop is possible... well, the way I see it... it's like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Personally, I think it's more important to get the picture first, even if it means not getting the photograph you want in full crop.
I suppose one could argue that I'm not skilled enough a photographer, since I cannot always get my desired shot to fill the entire frame. However, there are times when no amount of skill can compensate for the unpredictability of the subject. I mean, how do you frame the perfect shot for a subject that has no interest in being frame perfectly. For predictability, the subject must either be still, a willing participant, or is completely unaware of your intent. So unless I'm working in a controlled environment and shooting something that can't run away from me, like a landscape, still life, or a willing model, the likelihood of me shooting the exact picture I want is unlikely.
Then of course there is the issue of lens usage. What happens if the lens you're using happens to be the unideal focal length - that is to say too wide to get up close? Do you change the lens on your camera, get up close and risk losing the moment, or just shoot with what you have before the moment passes? Although I am sure that the truly commited photographer would have two camera bodies each with a different focal length, for the most of us using one body and one fixed focal length, we just have to make due with the unideal lens to capture that moment in time.
And of course there are also those photographers who call themselves purists. They never crop. They are the ones who back in the day of film printed their pictures with the frame line of the negatives. They think that it is wrong to crop, mainly because you're wasting the unused portion of the entire negative, not to mention reducing the quality of the final printed image. For a purist, cropping would be like shooting in full frame and then intentionally making your shots worst by converting them into Micro Four Thirds photos.
But then again, what is so wrong with reducing the file size of your photos? What I think a lot of people fail to realize is that on a decent full frame photo, a full crop isn't always necessary. For example, do you really always need to use all that 18 to 24 megapixel when you convert your photo into jpeg? Do you really need it for most normal use? That is to say, for your standard 4x6 prints, your standard web use photo for upload, or the pictures you store on your iPad?
The fact is this. I am a great believer of cropping. Maybe it's because of my design background that I don't see a real issue with cropping. The way I see it, cropping is just a tool, like any other tool. It can greatly help you improve an imperfectly framed image. It allows you to fine tune the narrative of your picture by editing out what you don't want to show in the frame, thereby emphasizing the actual subject by bringing it closer to the crop. In doing so, you enhance the overall impact of the image.
Last. I might not be as extreme as a purist, but when it comes to shooting landscape or shooting in a controlled environment with a willing subject, I do think it's bad practice not to frame the shot optimally. Cropping, like I said, is something you do to enhance an imperfectly framed image for reasons beyond your absolute control.
In the end, it's about getting that image, for the purpose of content creation. We're not all photographers showing at a gallery, so for the most of us, our work product is for web use or our own photo album.
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