Is composition still important?

Started Aug 5, 2015 | Discussions thread
HB1969 Senior Member • Posts: 1,302
Re: many famous, iconic photos were cropped
2

T3 wrote:

HB1969 wrote:

T3 wrote:

linbaolong wrote:

Nowadays, with the resolution of cameras getting higher and higher, we can just crop any picture we take even though it may have been composed badly. Sometime I wonder whether it is still important to compose a picture at the first click?

regards,

Lim

Many of the world's famous, iconic photos shot by many famous, iconic photographers were the result of cropping. It is a myth that great photos are all the result of in-camera composition without any post-shot cropping! Of course, many people believe this myth because they've never seen the original negative or original un-cropped image. Here are just a few famous photos that many of us know, followed by their original uncropped version (below). The point is that cropping has long been an important tool in photography, and every good photographer should be able to do it well.

Published Picasso portrait

Original Picasso uncropped image

Published Stravinsky photo

Original Stravinsky uncropped image

Publshed Che Guevara photo

Original Che Guevara uncropped image

Published Elliot Erwitt photo

Original uncropped image

Published Cartier-Bresson photo

Original uncropped Cartier-Bresson image

your post shows how careful cropping can be used to change the composition. Its only one tool though. Many of those shots were good photo's with careful compostion BEFORE cropping (apart from the one of Che). Cropping was used to take those good photos and turn them into amazing ones.

Frankly, I don't think any of those originals were particularly good photos with careful composition initially. The Picasso photo has a huge amount of pointless, empty space. The Stravinsky original composition is just a boring "man sitting at a piano" photo. The Che photo has a distracting man on the left and a plant on the right. In the original Elliot Erwitt dog photo, you barely even notice the dog because there are so many other distracting elements in the original framing. And so on and so forth. In other words, these photos are all rather forgettable BEFORE cropping, and the original compositions weren't that good. However, these photographers were smart enough to understand that a photo isn't completed until the photographers says it's complete. The most important thing is to capture the moment. The "careful composition" can be done later. There's a saying in photography: "When in doubt, click!" In other words, don't overthink a shot, don't over-analyze it, just take the shot if you feel there's something there. You can sort out a "careful composition" later...which is what these photographers have done.

As Anders Peters once said, “My photography is not ‘brain photography.’ I put my brain under the pillow when I shoot. I shoot with my heart and with my stomach.”

Of course, if you have time for "careful composition". But the point is that people shouldn't feel guilty about not having great composition at the time they click the shutter button. Even great photographers do a lot of composing and cropping long after the shot was taken. At the end of the day, it's the FINAL image that matters. No one else ever needs to see the original.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree for the most part. Agree about the pre-cropped image of Che. It looked like it was an opportunistic photo originally. Even after cropping it's a terrible photo. It's only powerful because it's Che Guavara. The pre-cropped Elliot was about the woman. You have the open hand, the cigarette on the ground and the dog looking like its about to play catch. You have mistery because you only see the woman from the waist down. It's a wonderful photo. Cropped its all about the dog in a funny coat but it's a strong image because it was taken at the level of the dog. The Newman photo of Igor Stravinsky would have been famous regardless of the crop because of Stravinsky. It was a well composed photo that only needed minor cropping to remove the ceiling cornice. Newman turned the photo into a very powerful image by only having the top of the grand piano and Stravinsky all the way in the corner looking very small by comparison. Essentially saying its all about the music not the man. Also, negative space is a compositional tool. It can make the subject look small by comparison. It just wasn't fitting for the Picasso photo. I remember reading somewhere that Cartier-Bresson saw the puddle and waited for someone to jump it. So he most definitely planned the composition of the shot and probably planned to crop because of the fixed focal length and where he was taking the shot from.

I agree with the sentiment "when in doubt, click" but I think that if you are aware of composition while you're shooting, it eventually becomes instinctual and your photography gets better for it....at least that's true for me (though I'm not up to the shooting on instinct yet ). As other's have said. There are a lot of things that can't change once you've taken the shot (eg perspective and DOF) except with creative photoshoping to reduce DOF but you can't add more DOF in post. There are descisions about composition that you need to make before you take the shot.

PS: I'm not a fan of Andres Petersen's work but many of his images are all about chaos so "shooting from the heart and the stomach" (figuratively speaking) suits his style.

Sorry about the long reply. You've probably fallen asleep by now

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