Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cheating Or Art?



How much to crop or optimize an image after it has been shot is a very personal decision. Looking at all possibilities when you are out photographing is the best approach. Try close-ups, try more distant views, shoot some from a high angle and others from a low angle. Stalk your subject by walking all around it if possible to discover a variety of views that might work, and then try them all.

While I generally try to shoot using these concepts, once I get home and view images on my large monitor I still see things I missed. Why I did not see them when I was shooting is a question with no good answer. Sometimes you just see things differently when looking at it on a flat screen rather than in the flesh.

Today’s image is a prime example. I love the dwarf crested iris flowers that bloom all too briefly in the spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I must have taken hundreds of different images of them while I was there. But I did not see the After image while I was shooting. It was only after viewing all images on my monitor after I returned home that I saw the heart of this image. The Before image above was all encompassing, and showed the entire flower with its companion flower to the right. The green leaves are nice, the ground nicely blurred out, but still it is not a very exciting or compelling image. The After version is cropped extensively, and optimized to darken the background and enhance the tones of the flower.

While I find the Before image acceptable, I love the After version. It has a lovely flow from lower left to upper right. It showcases the beautiful dimensional bright center of the main petal. It shows the beauty and elegance of the bloom even though much of the entire flower has been cropped away.

Of course you want to get the best photographs you can while shooting, but never hesitate to rethink the image after you get home. If you think of a photograph as an art piece, then is it OK to make significant changes to the crop after you have viewed the image and determined what the heart of the image actually is?

I’m interested in your feedback. Take this opportunity to weigh in on this question. Do you feel that the After image is cheating, that it is too great a departure from the image as shot? Or do you feel that using artistic license to completely re-crop the image after the fact is acceptable? Send your responses to with “Cheating or Art” in the subject line. A report on the votes will appear in a future blog.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/5.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Artistic license often provokes controversy by offending those who resent the reinterpretation of cherished beliefs or previous works.”