As a photographer, our goal is to capture an image right in camera so you don’t have to spend time “fixing” it in post. This includes framing the shot. Normally, this is great advice when you know the final output size. But if you don’t have a clear direction or you are unsure of the final output size, consider shooting wide and cropping later. Here are a few examples of when shooting wide and cropping later saved the shot.

Filling the frame was a bad choice

When digital cameras first appeared, the resolution was poor and expensive. A 6.1 megapixel DSLR from Nikon/Kodak cost $8,000.00 in 2001. Professional photographers would preach, “Fill the frame, don’t waste a single pixel!” So, for my first wedding shoot, I filled the frame, making sure I framed the shot and got it right in camera. Imagine my surprise when I needed to fill the wedding couple’s photo album with 8×10 images — my final output size was 8×12. In this case, filling the frame was a bad choice, a lesson learned. I solved the problem by printing the images as 8×12 artist vision unique prints. A fancy name for saying I screwed up.

Digital cameras have many megapixels

The cheapest of digital cameras — including cell phone cameras — have many megapixels. Although it is still a good idea to fill the frame so as not waste a single pixel, today’s cameras provide sufficient resolution that still produce stunning images. Framing it right in camera will save time by not having to crop in post, but don’t let this stop you from cropping for impact or to get multiple looks from one image for fear of losing quality.

Crop away distractions or when something looks weird

Cropping is a great way to remove distractions or when something just doesn’t look right. Let’s use this example of Florida-based model Arial Vega. I took this photograph as part of my “How to get the shot in 2 minutes or less” series.

I shot wide knowing I would want to crop later in post. I didn’t shoot as wide as I would have liked, leaving her arm halfway in the frame. Normally, this wouldn’t be bad, however, I didn’t like the position of her bent wrist so I cropped it out. At first, it looked OK, but when I reviewed it the following day, it looked like a mysterious hand appeared out of nowhere. It wasn’t apparent at first because it was fresh in my mind that her arm extended beyond the frame. When my memory was flushed, I saw something different. A creative crop fixed the image.

Simple advice: For most shots, plan ahead and get it right in camera. When you’re unsure of how you want to frame the shot, shoot wide and crop later.