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March 1, 2020
© Jim Miller – Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)

All photographers crop.

Not all photographers want to admit this, but all photographers crop.

Professional. Amateur. Beginner.

iPhone camera wielder. Large format photographer with access to his or her own lab or darkroom and last pieces of undeveloped film and photographic paper left on the planet.

All photographers crop.

The act of choosing a lens, choosing a zoom setting, moving the camera, and even moving our feet all constitute cropping. With a camera we cannot provide a full view of what our eyes see, so any actions we take to put the wide world into a rectangular or square frame is cropping.

Almost all photographers crop when they process and/or print. If your camera makes an image in a 4×6 format and you print a 5×7 of the image, you have intentionally cropped. You may have not taken control of the process, but effectively parts of what you shot disappeared with the printing process.

Nearly all photographers who had access to the legacy wet darkroom also cropped. Whether it be through paper size or purposefully moving the paper to get the image they wanted, they cropped. I may have some memory gaps here and there, but nothing will clear out the memory of the vinegar-like smell of the stop bath in the monochrome darkroom.

Nearly all photographers in the digital realm do as well. It is sure a lot easier than the wet darkroom. But it is the same technique.

I crop.

Almost all of my images get dropped down into a 4:5 short end/long end ratio because I want all of my images to be ready to be printed as 8x10s without additional work when it is time to print. I can probably count on one hand the number of shots in my portfolio collection that I did not crop down to 4:5 ratio.

I usually further crop down because I didn’t exactly compose it right in the viewfinder. Almost every time. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a ton. But always in a 4:5 ratio.

I don’t do much more in Photoshop or Lightroom. Exposure, color temperature, and saturation are about the only other things I will ever touch. And to some degree these are also things that I would have been able to control either in a wet color darkroom or with film choice before the shoot. But I certainly crop.

My goal is to crop the bare minimum I need to in achieving that 4:5 ratio. My Canon 7D Mark II has an image size of 5472×3648 pixels. My goal is to only crop down to 4560×3648. Effectively only removing things from the left and right sides (or top and bottom if I shot in portrait format) to achieve the 4:5 ratio. I don’t achieve that very often.

When I do achieve it, it is a little celebration. I achieved an image I like on a technical basis and I did so through filling the frame in the ratio I find most pleasing.

So when you see in my technical details the magic 4560×3648 (or 3648×4560… a much rarer feat for me), know that I probably did a little happy dance as I was recording the pixel size in my spreadsheet and saving it into my file library.

About the Image:
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Uvalde County, Texas – January 2020
Canon 7D Mark II, Tamron 150-600 (Gen 1) at 600mm
Tripod w/Wimberley gimbal head
ISO 400, 1/250 sec at f/14 – No Flash
Portfolio Image #0824
Image Size in Portfolio: 4560×3648

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