On my usual sunday stroll along my favorite mall in Ortigas (guess where), I happen to stumble upon a toy convention in one of the Megatrade Halls there (yes, in that mall. ^_^). Lots of people were abuzz there, a plethora of toys and collectibles were sold at fairly low prices, cosplayers, roughly platoons of them, were all over the area, and of course, photo enthusiasts with their cameras came in packs to take shots of everything and everyone there. As always, I brought along my camera, mounted with my favorite walk-around lens, the Sigma 85mm. f/1.4 prime (yes, more often than not, I prefer this prime over my 70-200 f/2.8, simply because I prioritize large apertures and better image quality over the benefits of a zoom, even if ti's an f/2.8 version) and happily mingled with the crowd. :)
It is not exactly an ideal thing to tote around a mid-teleprime when pitted against a huge crowd where things get really congested, since most of the time, a lot of people will be in your way when you try to nail a shot from time to time. Nonetheless, it's a challenge for me to do so, (I love challenges anyway. ^_^) and I managed to get myself some clean sharp keepers, even at f/1.4... but not exactly at the composition that I wanted, like this shot:
Camera Settings: 1/200 sec. at f/1.6 (must have accidentally nudged the dial a bit), ISO 400, at 85mm.
Now, technically speaking, there's really nothing wrong with this shot: the photo's clean and sharp, it is properly exposed, and the color's just right (since I took care of that first in post, naturally. ^_^). Artistically speaking though, this doesn't sit well with me. In my opinion, there is too much empty space in the shot, and the background is too "bright" (not overexposed, which is different), something that I would not normally associate a super villain like The Baroness in such environments. Since there were so many people busily spraying the area with continuous frame bursts in attempts of taking decent shots of her, (and that I would sometimes end up "accidentally" hitting them with my long lens ^_^) I didn't have much choice (or the perfect opportunity) to properly compose my shot, so I resorted to doing some cropping to get rid of the unwanted elements here like the background.
Strictly speaking, cropping can be considered as an illegal move in photography. In the digital age, literally everything has a fix/repair/undo/check-and-recheck option. Not sure if the photo went out right? Chimp on your camera's LCD screen. Photo's underexposed? Increase the gamma in Photoshop. Blurred shot? Delete, fire again. Not sure if you can shoot the decisive moment? Capture the whole moment (shoot at continuous high), then decide later. Simply put, with all the "fail-safe" options that digital anything has given us, we tend to neglect our shooting discipline. We tend to be complacent by keeping in mind that, with a large capacity memory card, we virtually have unlimited shots, and that we can always do over whatever moment we manage to botch up, assuming that we're talking about a static subject, which may usually not be the case. Imagine this line coming from a photoguy beside you: "One, two, three, smile! *click* (chimps at screen) Oops, sorry... could you hold your pose like that for three-hundred more shots 'til we get one good one? Thanks." It just doesn't work that way.
However I would like to make things clear, that cropping, though this can lead to bad composition habits, can sometimes be unavoidable, and that, due to various reasons (or excuses. ^_^), proper composition can sometimes be impossible to achieve.
...which brings us to the question: when is it "legal" to crop a photo?
You can (guiltlessly) crop only if you can support the following qualifications:
There are many more reasons you can add to the list here, but basically, they all say the same thing: resort to cropping only as a necessity. If it's not, then you need to work on your technique, and make it a habit of creating the ideal shot in your head (along with the necessary camera settings to achieve this) before actually taking it... in record time or less.
Oh yes, about the photo above. I did say that I cropped the original to properly suit the mood that I wanted for it.
And here is the final product: