There are two ways to crop a photograph. You can do it in the camera when you are composing the shot or you can crop it in photoshop. :: SPOILER ALERT :: Cropping in camera is a horrible idea for portraiture that can cause you to lose money and get bad word of mouth from your clients. Why? Let’s talk about aspect ratios.

WHAT ARE ASPECT RATIOS?

Every print size has an aspect ratio of width to height. The aspect ratio of a 4×6 and a 8×10 are completely different. When you look through your viewfinder you are normally seeing a 4×6 ratio or something close to it.

If you crop in the camera, you get an image that looks great as a 4×6 but the composition might suffer as an 8×10. If we crop the portrait above to an 8×10 it doesn’t look bad.

Cropping in Camera
Photo © 2019 Randy McKown

Now let’s take a look at a full body portrait. This is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t be cropping your portraits in camera.

Cropping in Camera
Photo © 2019 Randy McKown

The portrait on the left will look fine as a 4×6 print. However, look what happens when we try to crop it to an 8×10. The new aspect ratio dramatically changes the composition.

What happens if you make this mistake and the client wants to purchase an 8×10 but she also wants it to show off her favorite boots? She’s not going to purchase the 8×10 and will instead choose the 4×6. Which print size do you make more money from? Ahhhhhh, now you see how you are losing money.

What if you’re shooting for a shoe company? You have to save the boots and that means your only option is to cut the head off the model. What kind of word of mouth do you think you’re going to get from this client now?

CROP IN CAMERA CORRECTLY

The solution is pretty simple. Keep your aspect ratios in mind while shooting. Ask yourself if the shot that you’re about to take would be ruined by an 8×10 aspect ratio? If so, you better pull back a little. By leaving just a little space around the subject you can crop it to any aspect ratio later.

Another solution is to just shoot more images with different aspect ratios in mind. Photo #1 is cropped for a 4×6. Photo #2 is the same composition but cropped for an 8×10. While this can be a good solution, in some cases, it is not always the ideal way to do a photo shoot.

If you are working with a model, their expressions could change from one shot to the next. Another issue is that you will waste a lot of time during the shoot taking duplicate exposures. More images also means more time sitting at the computer editing. My advice is go with the first method and simply pull back a bit on your compositions.

Know your camera and know how to compose a shot that can later be cropped to an 8×10 without losing important details in your composition. This is an easy way to create happier customers and bigger print sales.