As crucial as technical expertise, a strong composition takes a photograph to a new level. When a photograph displays a high level of technical expertise, it has passed the first mile-stone of photography. The next hurdle is composition; no matter the level of technical expertise displayed in a print, if the composition and subject matter fall short, the final image will fail. As with most creative endeavors, composition requires a strong balance between creation and execution, between reality and intuition.
A photograph is a carefully selected excerpt from the world around us. Choosing the boundaries of the scene is a major component of the art of photography, and should be done in-camera whenever possible. If the composition is set when you expose the film, the printing becomes that much easier—and using the full negative makes sense. In those cases where there is too much information, the cropping must be adjusted during printing. This is always frustrating, as it is more difficult to correct a composition after the expo- sure, forcing you to second-guess your- self. For times when it is impossible to crop correctly during the exposure (such as not having the correct lens, or during a grab-shot of a quickly unfolding scene), cropping must be done during printing. In these cases, it’s better to include too much in the exposure.