Cropping vs Framing…

As part of the course we are asked to note down what we understand to be the difference between ‘cropping’ and ‘framing’.  This is to demonstrate our understanding of photographic terms, our ability to differentiate between them and our understanding of how they apply and impact on image capture, meaning and post processing.  Understanding the difference between cropping and framing which feeds into the quality of outcomes and gives context to composition.

Firstly, I will start with some definitions:

Verb: crop (cropped, cropping) 7. To reduce the size of an image by removing undesirable or unnecessary elements. (WordWeb Software. 2016. WordWeb Software. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 10 April 2016].)

Verb: frame 1. Enclose in or as if in a frame. (WordWeb Software. 2016. WordWeb Software. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 10 April 2016].)

I believe the key difference between cropping and framing is;

Framing happens before/at the point an image is captured, either in the planning stage and/or whilst looking through the viewfinder.  Cropping happens after an image has been captured.

Noting that;

Framing evaluates the relationship of the desired elements, in their desired positions at the point the image is captured.  Cropping selects the desired elements of an image, discarding the undesired elements, in post processing to improve/change what is shown within the frame.

Framing considers the camera viewfinder as the frame.  Cropping considers a frame to be of any dimension within the original image framing, according to; the elements captured and the application or specific requirements of the image.

Framing is done in camera via the viewfinder (or sometimes in planning using a framing tool).  Cropping is done in post processing software, on a computer or in a darkroom.

Whilst researching the differences above I noted that cropping is one of the most basic photograph manipulation processes available to photographers but there appears to be differing opinions between practitioners and the photography world in general whether cropping is acceptable not.

In my opinion there is a place for cropping, this could be to; change the aspect ratio of an image e.g. make the image panoramic, magnify the primary subject, improve composition and remove unwanted subjects.  magazines, for example, will have specific requirements for the space available for an image so it maybe necessary to adjust the size of the image to fit.

Also in sports photography where fast-moving subjects are being photographed, possibly on fast image capture, there may not be time to consider the best framing as you would say in a studio.  The action is happening within a split second so a wider angle is generally used and then the image is cropped back in post processing.

However, care needs to be taken, for example, in photojournalism and documentary photography where a photographer is recording real life subjects and/or events where I believe cropping in certain circumstances is not appropriate, e.g. where the meaning of the image is altered because of the removal of ‘unwanted’ items or subjects.  These types of images should NOT be altered e.g. in Photoshop in my opinion and I’m sure this will be a topic of conversation later in the degree course.  Also I think that one photograph/image may not be enough to tell the full ‘story’ and a series of images is required to get more of a feeling of the situation being witnessed by the photographer.

I note that framing is also open to abuse in this context, depending on the photographer’s agenda, but this point probably turns into a debate on ethics which is not for this particular post but maybe one for another…


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