"Get it right in the camera", correct? But sometimes you can't and sometimes you won't on purpose, but it works out only if you know how and when to crop!As artists, we do not view our life through the constrictions of the available view each particular lens gives us. As photographers, we do, however, learn to see through our lenses and adapt our compositions accordingly. Each lens and camera combination that we use becomes an extensions of us and our eyes, and when shooting street photography, for example, we begin to anticipate how each shot will go from the moment of us seeing it with our eyes to us composing and shooting it. This is a skill that you can only learn the more you shoot, there are no shortcuts.
The more familiar we become with what we know is possible with our equipment, the easier it becomes to photograph something that you know for a fact will not look "right" in the camera but can be adjusted in the editing process. We do not see life as a square but if you know the strength a square crop will give your image, then you will shoot it in a way that allows you to remove unnecessary space to reveal a strong image that would not work in any other ratio. As you learn more about post production in photography, experiment with different crops to see what works for you as an individual and what suddenly becomes more pleasing to your eye.
I found this to be very prevalent when I was photographing the streets of Budapest just a few days ago. I only brought my disheveled and old Fuji X-Pro 1 combined with a XF 35mm f/2 R WR to accompany me on these travels. I prefer a wider view than what this lens gives me but I have learned to use it, knowing the possibilities it gives me as well as the difficulties I may encounter. I have worked with this lens through a 365 project and the more you shoot with a particular lens, the less time you will need to spend consciously considering what the image can look like when it's finished. It will become an automatic process where you quickly evaluate whether this is the shot or not. Still, after all that I sometimes take the shot thinking it will work and it simply doesn't. The only thing you can do is try again next time.
Shooting with neither a wide nor a long lens, I knew the strengths of this lens lies in creating images with solid compositions and less so in getting close in on the action, such as groups of people. The latter is what I do with a wide lens but understanding what I can do with the equipment in my hands, helped me put my efforts into seeking out compositions that still carry my style and personality but are also in line with what I physically can create with this lens.
When it comes to cropping itself, the important thing is understanding that what you leave in is just as important as what you decide to leave out of the image. You may have been taught to capture images that are "right" in the camera but your distance from the subject or the scene, the angle you have chosen (or have been forced to choose) combined with what lens you are using will create unique variables that don't always lend themselves to being "right" initially. It may not be the case for heavily stylized shots but certainly applies to photographs that document the life and people all around us.
As with all things in life, less is more. If your image does not need to be cropped, leave it be. There is no need to give yourself unnecessary extra post production work just because you think you need to spend a lot of time on each individual image to make it "good". You don't. Your visual skills and experience will become more refined the more you do photography, and as such you will learn to recognize when the image is finished. What is the point of performing an hour long edit on an image that might just need a few adjustments? Don't fall in the trap of thinking that you need to have a contrived workflow to end up with images that please your eyes and soul.
Cropping won't rescue an image that is beyond rescuing if the most important components are missing or the image is lacking any emotion but learning to crop can make your images more powerful. There is no reason why you should feel less of a photographer when you crop your images because you can't always rely on seeing the world the way your lens sees it. Same as editing out unwanted and distracting components, cropping acts as a tool to help you finish your image in a way that aligns with your vision. And sometimes that vision tells us it has got to be a square image.
Do you crop your images or do you prefer to leave them exactly as they were shot?