Cream of the Crop

A few years ago I went on a photographic workshop/tour in Asia, and something that the instructor told us surprised me. “Oh, I never crop my photos,” proclaimed this photographer. I was taken aback because being primarily a landscape photographer, I often crop my photographs in post processing. Whether it’s straightening the photo, or trimming it to improve the overall image, I view cropping to be another tool at my disposal. Since my main camera is a Sony A7RIV, which has a 61MP sensor, even a large crop can leave plenty of pixels in the image.

While I normally retain the 3:2 aspect ratio after a crop, lately I’ve been experimenting with other aspect ratios, such as 1:1, 3:1, 5:4, and 16:9. Sometimes I even crop the photo without even thinking about a set aspect ratio. But I often print and frame my photos, and it’s easier to find framing materials in common sizes rather than making custom mats and frames.

Trying these different aspect ratios has opened my eyes to new possibilities. New life has been breathed into some of my older photos. Trimming out more of the sky and foreground in the 3:1 and 16:9 ratios gives an expansive, panoramic look to the landscape. The 1:1 aspect ratio, known to Instagram users, works well when the subject is placed in the center of the image. The classic 5:4 or 4:5 ratio seems like an excellent choice for many of my photos because it offers balance and just looks better.

The photo below was cropped quite a bit. I asked myself, “What is the most important part of the original photograph”? It’s the oak tree. I chose a 1:1 aspect ratio for this crop. The vineyard in the foreground and the sunset sky are attractive, but the tree is the main attraction. It’s the cream of the crop.

Sundown, Sonoma Valley