(Re)Exploring the Square Crop

On Friday I had the privilege to attend a talk by dance photographer Lois Greenfield. During the talk she discussed her choice in her most recent gallery to use square cropping (1:1 ratio), as opposed to the more conventional 4:3 or 5:7. Some of her images had actually been shot on a square frame in the days of film. Since the transition to digital, square frames have been largely out of style replaced by the more common 4:3/ 5:7. However, with the rising popularity of Instagram, and the resurgence of Polaroid,  square cropping is back in the public eye. Looking at the Louis Greenfield gallery, her choice to use a 1:1 crop ratio created interest and worked well for the type of images she was displaying. When I returned home, I decided to try my hand at a 1:1 crop on some of my photos. In the past I’ve nearly always stuck with the default ratio delivered to me by the camera, and re-cropping a little whenever I would get prints. I don’t know why I never experimented with other ratios, but I’ve just always used the in camera ratio since it was the one the images were delivered in.

I started with my most recent shots, some dance photography for my Intermediate photography class.
These are low-res copies of the images I used for the sake of readability and quick loading times. Clicking on the pictures will link you to a Full-Res copy hosted on my gallery.

This is the original Cropping, followed with a 1:1 crop


Here’s another dance shot, with the 1:1 crop


So this far I’m very happy with the way a 1:1 crop works for dance photography. It seems by the nature of dance that a 4:3 crop creates a lot of wasted space. The 1:1 crop eliminates the wasted space on either side of the dancers, allowing the audience to focus in on the dancers.

Next, I’m going to move on to a few portraits and candids of single subjects I’ve done over the years:




I’m also pleased with the portraits. Similar to the dance photography, a 1:1 crop eliminates a lot of unused space and focuses the image in on the subject.

Now I’m going to move on to some landscapes/ nature photography

I’m not sure how I feel about this one, I could take it or leave it honestly. While I find the graded transition in the color of the sky appealing in the 1:1 crop, I think that the removal of the road and power lines does take away from the overall composition.

I like this one a little bit better. Having a clearly defined subject seems to help.

Lets look at another, this one is a landscape again, I cropped it on the right side of the frame to keep the building in. This is a picture of my college campus, and the building is clearly identifiable as the university center,

This one, I like, but it feels a little off to me. The crop has completely changed the composition of the shot. In the first shot, the image is a landscape with a building in it, but the second seems more like the building is the subject of the image. I started playing with some adjustments in Lightroom, and tried some black and white filters. I’m not sure if my own preconceptions about a 1:1 ratio being associated with black and white are shading my opinion, but I like the B&W filters combined with the 1:1 ratio.

Here’s the image above, B&W and color side by side

I used the Red High-contrast Filter in Adobe Lightroom. The lack of color allowed me to further accentuate the contrast in the image. I can make the blacks blacker and whites whiter. While I liked the color in the original image, now looking at the B&W, I think that for the 1:1 ratio the B&W is a better fit.

Since I liked it with this image, I decided to go back and explore it’s usage in some of the other images.

This one was achieved with the Red Filter Preset.

Green Filter

Green Filter

Green Filter

All in all, I’ve found this to be a very interesting exercise. I am pleased by the results. In the future I think I may consider a 1:1 ratio for my images, along with more experimentation with B&W Filters. If you want to see a few more examples of 1:1 cropping you can head over to the applicable folder on my website. There are several other images that I left out of this post for the sake of brevity.


The opinions expressed by me (Brendan Illis) in this post are mine alone, and do not reflect the opinions of my employers, associates, University, or any employees thereof. All relevant copyrights for material hosted on this domain is retained by me (B. Illis) unless otherwise noted. If you believe you a work you own is hosted here without due credit or permission, please contact brendan@illis.net. If you have any concerns about an image of you appearing on this blog, my gallery, or anywhere on the illis.net domain, please contact brendan@illis.net

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