The photo in my previous post was cropped severely in Lightroom, as shown in the above screen-shot. [Click on the image for a larger view.] When shooting at your camera’s maximum resolution you can dramatically crop the original photo without sacrificing quality. With a low resolution image it’s impossible, so there’s really no reason to shoot below the max. Back in the days when memory cards were expensive and offered limited capacity there was often no choice but to shoot low-res JPEGs. Not today. We can “think RAW,”  thank Ra. It’s “high quality” all the way.

Cropping can significantly improve an image, or offer several alternate views of a subject within a single shot. Triptych, anyone? You multiply the creative possibilities, can sculpt an image to refine or emphasize the subject. Shift POV or banish distractions.

Of course, a lot depends on what you’re shooting.

For example, when taking portraits it’s best to work close to the subject (or!) use a telephoto lens and effectively crop in camera.

My photo here was taken with a Nikon D300s and a 17-70mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens at 17mm. (1/50 sec at f/7.1. -1/3 EV; ISO 800) Although I was tight on the subject, the extreme wide angle captured considerable area outside my focus point. The  original photo was so-so, as opposed to SoHo. Cropping kicked it up several notches. (BTW, the crop tool grid in Lightroom is designed for experimentation and a joy to use.) For a final touch, I applied a Vignette Blur using Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0.

I learned the value of cropping early on from my father, a professional photographer. I’d show him a print I was happy with and he’d apply sections of a matte frame to it, showing me how the image could be improved by removing extraneous detail.

To crop or not to crop?

That’s the question and one worth asking in post.