How you decide to crop an image is a definite artistic choice, one that you make in the field and certainly one that you can make in the digital dark room. And with the Virtual Copy feature in Lightroom you can make different crops and see what works best without consuming a ton of hard drive space, at least until you process it to a master file in Photoshop and save it---if that's your workflow. I'm often surprised that I like a really different crop of an image when returning to the image after the initial processing work. There's definitely something to be said for revisiting images 6 months or later down the road.
Here's a short check list to ask yourself when cropping an image:
1. What's the subject of the image and is there a crop that might work best for the subject?
2. Is there potential for this image to be part of a project or folio with other images that have a similar crop?
3. How does the visual mass of the main subject change with different crops?
4. Is there a way to keep the viewer's eye moving through the scene with a different crop?
5. How does a different crop affect the relationship between the main visual elements?
Maybe there are other items to add to your checklist or maybe you prefer to crop by feel and ask questions later! Either way, it's great fun to experiment with different crops before rushing on to process the next image in the folder.
In comparing this scene from Roaring Fork, it's easy to see how the two different crops change the image and viewing experience quite a bit. In the panoramic image, the large boulder on the left is really prominent and it's a large triangle that's actually pointing toward the next boulder upstream and helps get the eye moving through the scene. The eye then might circle back down to the bright cascade and then move back upstream to explore the boulder that's far away. Either way the eye moves in a circle or a zig zag but does not exit the frame or get stuck in one spot. The panoramic crop really helps communicate the scene as a whole, the cascade and the surrounding signs of early spring.
The second crop tends to focus the eye much more on the bright cascade and the boulder on the left becomes much less prominent. The image becomes much more about light than the other elements of the wider scene. A little stronger, more bold image with the cascade having much more visual mass in relation to the rest of the scene.
Original exposure was a 3 image stitch with the TS 24mm lens f/3.5
1.6 sec at f/11
What are your thoughts on cropping? What's your work flow in the field or digital dark room?