The Danger of Arbitrary Cropping and How to Be More Consistent

If you want to create a consistent body of work, it is crucial that you unify the elements of style that go into each image. One of the most overlooked of these is proper cropping, and this excellent video will show you why that is such a crucial thing to master. 

Coming to you from Alister Benn with Expressive Photography, this great video discusses the importance of cropping with intention, particularly with an eye toward creating a more consistent portfolio. I will be the first to admit that I do not do a good job of ensuring my cropping is consistent. I generally crop arbitrarily from photo to photo as I see fit for that particular image, but it is something I am trying to improve to create more consistency across my portfolio, especially since aspect ratio is such an immediately noticeable property of any photo. One thing that has helped a lot is taking more time to be really careful about thinking through my crop while shooting instead of relying on my ability to reframe it in post. Check out the video above for Benn's full thoughts.

And if you really want to dive into landscape photography, check out "Photographing The World 1: Landscape Photography and Post-Processing with Elia Locardi." 

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5 Comments

Celso Mollo's picture

I could not disagree more, the body of work is the content and the artistic value of your photographs not the aspect ratio that your content and your stories.
This is such a thinking inside the box, an artist should not be limited by an aspect ratio, look Van Gough, Picasso, they didn't paint in the same aspect ratio, they paint in the aspect ratio they thought it will hold their art the best way. and I dare anyone question their body of work.

Tom Reichner's picture

It is not useful to compare modern photography to painting one-off originals. Why? Because most modern photography is displayed in an array of thumbnails in rows and columns. If that is how one's body of work will be displayed, then it can be important to have some degree of uniformity to the aspect ratios used.

Original oil paintings were not displayed on computer monitors in an orderly array of thumbnails. They were displayed at full size in real life, where consistency of aspect ratio was not nearly as important.

As photographers, we are not "limited by" aspect ratios. Rather, aspect ratios are tools that we have at our disposal. We can use aspect ratios to give our body of work a uniformity, if we so desire. Aspect ratios are creative tools, not restrictions.

Celso Mollo's picture

Excuse me, as photographers??? 😂

Tom Reichner's picture

Correct. As digital photographers, we are not limited by aspect ratios. Aspect ratios are creative tools that we have at our disposal. Just like I said. Is there some part of what I said that you do not understand, or that you do not agree with?

Andrew Eaton's picture

I think the point about when you bring them together as a body of work is very relevant. When printing, framing, hanging and curating a gallery set, having random aspect ratios unless intended in your creative approach could look a mess and poorly curated. In a book I think its important from page to page where you can see and compare images, but over the page can be different. To me its about creative intent.. random cropping, because you can isn't creative intent.