Photo by Brandon Getty
You ever spazz out about crops? I do. Not all the time. Just sometimes. I have talked about it before. In this post I will try to describe the Rambo track my mind runs laps on.
It starts with Henri Cartier Bresson. He makes the composition with his eye in the viewfinder. He prints over the edge of the image so you get that black outline from the empty space of the negative. This is just extra emphasis that he framed it up when shooting and it is exactly how it is meant to be. He didn’t want any publishers to crop his photos ever.
And this is correct. This is the proper way to think of your shooting. I was taught this and this is also the proper way to honor your formats. For example if you are shooting square, you print it square.
But then 2 things happened to me simultaneously. The first thing was seeing an exhibition by Robert Frank. In this showing they displayed his regular exhibition prints but also his work prints and contact sheets. Some of his most famous photos were crazy cropped! In the contact sheets you can see that a photo was originally shot horizontal. In the work prints you can see different attempts at the crop. And in the book you can see the final version is a vertical image.
I was shocked but not that shocked. That’s because of the second thing that happened to me. I got into publishing. Well first I got into printing my photos a lot and then mass producing them for mass consumption. The problem is paper sizes don’t match photography format sizes, so when you want to go full bleed you’re gonna knock off a chunk of the photo. It is unavoidable.
So for me cropping is generally fine. If I can save a garbage photo by cropping or “re-framing” it a bit, then I will do it. If I have to move a photo around to avoid the gutter in a 2 page spread, so be it.
The problem is this: file preparation. Now that I am voicing this out loud, it doesn’t seem like much of a problem. LOL. Some photos will look good in all scenarios, but most won’t. Print form, zine form, in a frame, on a tshirt, blog or IG etc etc. Some photos do better in certain forms in certain crops. For instance, in a zine I might have a vertical photo at 2:3 but on the internet I have it in it’s native 4:3 and when I print it on an 8.5 x 11, it’ll probs go 5:7. I guess what I am saying is it’s weird having 3 versions of the same photo out there, so to combat that I have been hitting everything with 5:7 because I think that is my favorite ratio right now. BUT that crop doesn’t work for everything. And neither does a particular photo. See how we are just going round and round?
Anyways, I am overthinking it. Don’t be like me is the moral of the story.