Street Photography: Cropping or Aspect Change

Hi all,

Often I get questions about why I crop to get a square image. I thought this months blog would be a good one to clarify more on that.

Actually it's not cropping what I do, but changing the aspect ratio. Since I mostly shoot with an 8mm wide angle I get a lot of so called 'negative space' in my images. Negative space is the space that surrounds the main subject in a photograph. Negative space can be used in a positive way like in the image below.

Changed the aspect ratio to 16:9. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. The big space surrounding my subject is called negative space. Click to enlarge

But especially when I take candid street portraits with the use of a fisheye I like to fill the frame with the subject only. Otherwise there will be too much distraction in the frame. Below you see two examples of changing the aspect ratio towards 1:1.

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 without cropping. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 without cropping. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

You can clearly see in the examples above that If I wouldn't change the aspect ratio, the images would be much less interesting to watch because of the distracting or uninteresting surroundings.

So basically, if you have a nice serene surrounding, you can use that negative space very well within your composition and you probably should from a photographic point of view. But if the surroundings are very busy and therefor distracting from the main subject, it is my believe that one better changes the aspect ratio to get more focus towards the subject. If changing the aspect ratio doesn't work within the composition, the shot is probably a failure.

Some cropping can help, but heavily cropping a shot which has been taken with a fisheye makes no sense since it will kill it's purpose. Minimal cropping (like 5% or so) to get rid of an annoying pole on the side or whatever can make a big difference of course and I do that if necessary. Cropping images taken with a 'normal' lense is a different thing. That doesn't matter at all of course, but watch out with too much cropping if you want to print that shot in a large format. That won't work anymore.

Below an example where I changed the aspect ratio and cropped as well. I cropped because I feel there was way to much space above his head.

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 and cropping afterwards. I didn't crop to much in order to be able to print it if I want to in the future. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

Hope to have provide some clarification on this matter.

If you have any questions, suggestions or remarks please feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the comment section below or through Facebook.

Have a good one all ;)

Willem