Better is a subjective word. So what I am suggesting is a way to help you control what you want to subjectively convey in your photographs. Cropping is a tool that can be used to creat greater impact or emphasize different elements or transmit different mood. This is old-hat to painters or photographers or other artists who have studied art. But what rules and principles are taught are attempts to quantify and govern what is felt. Those who feel their images--and everyone does more or less--intuitively use these rules and principles. You can too.
The best way that know to demonstrate how cropping can change the feelings of photographs, is by demonstration.Cropping goes had in hand with composition. You look, you see, you are affected, you desire to capture something of what you are seeing. You may not immediately understand what it is that has attracted yoru attention. Composition is the practice of the art that develops from determining what parts of a scene that you want to try and catch so as to preserve and remember and hopefully give to others. You can never capture everything you are feeling. Photographic tools are too limited for that. But you can capture something worthwhile. You may then edit these images after the fact in order to best render whatever it is that strikes you as important and worth remembering. As with all perceptions and memories what we see is always going to be subjective because it si being seen and felt through us.
This series of images are some that were captured simply. They were taken with a simple automatic digital pocket camera that I try to have with me at all times. Digital cameras and phones with camera functions and the whole digital paradigmn has totally changed photography. While there will always be a need for those skilled in the craft of photography, digital technology has brought tools to virtually everyone. There are exponentially more images being made today than yesterday or ten years ago. The visual competition brought by television and computers and social media and smart phones has both brought huge visual expression to everyone as well as desensitized us to all but the most extraordinary visual images.
This partial sequence of images shows composition on the fly, using the zoom capabilities of my camera. It took mere seconds to slow my vehicle down and position myself in such a way as to vary angles and use foreground and background elements to try to catch a little something about the nice rural countryside that was passing by.
Even the fence, the fence posts, the ditch, and other foreground elements can be used in such instances, to make a presentation that those viewing your pictures can relate to. There may indeed be scenes that impress me so profoundly that I will decide to go back and capture with a large format view camera and tripod--but those are becoming fewer and fewer for me. I have found that as I become more senior and my time here is becoming in-my-face shorter, I would rather grab a lot of images than narrow them down to just a few. I suppose that it is an unconscious attempt at immortality. Whatever it is, it can be fun and rewarding. I beleive that for those who feel compelled to do this thing called photography, it is essential for any degree of happiness.
Compare the three images above. Double-click them if you need to to see each entire images. The first and the next two are from essentially the same vantage point, but only those next two are the same image. They are from exactly the same original, but the last one has been cropped slightly. I do a lot of cropping within the camera while composing images on the fly. Which one do you like best? After half a century of taking pictures on a consistent basis, there is very little that enters my field of view that I don't consciously see. I found my initial instincts sufficient that I preserved the first image although I cropped it to make a cleaner, less busy image by taking out the power pole and a bit of the forground. This is the most common type of cropping. There may be times when I would prefer the first, busier image for illustration purposes. For example, if I wanted to convey both the picturesque mood of this farm as well as a bit of, well, busy-ness, in the sense of a lot going on. Or I might want to have the viewer to feel old clashing with new. Granted, everything looks pretty old in this image, but the stereotypical power pole is an icon of civilization. Don't think so? That's okay, I am an old timer. You may have a different context--and this is important. Context must be kept in mind. The power pole and diagonal power lines also provide greater feeling of depth. But, for a more serene art image--the cropped image is better than the uncropped one.
I will post more examples of cropping for impact in the next few posts.