Whenever I have a big decision to make, a clear choice between ‘a’ or ‘b’, my mum likes to remind me of my habit as a 3 or 4 year old toddler of storming out of newsagents empty handed, crying my eyes out and having a right old hissy fit because I couldn’t choose between a) a comic or b) a packet of sweets. So rather than risk making the ‘wrong’ decision I’d go empty handed like a proper little martyr.

(and my mum would argue that this still happens)

So, I had a really difficult decision to make recently. In fact, I’ve still not made it. No sweets or comics were involved, but all the same it’s pretty much hamstrung my entire creative flow. I’ve got photos in my camera that I can’t even find the motivation to download simply because Photoshop is still open in the background with two slightly different versions of the exact same shot sitting there waiting to have the Ultimate Verdict delivered, and it’s been like that for over 24 hours. Talk about making a lot of fuss over nothing.

The shot in question isn’t even all that amazing (well, obviously it is really – I’m just being modest). It was taken a few days ago when I was on a wander around my neighbourhood with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens, looking for little details that caught my eye in an attempt to keep my hand in with casual personal urban photography, something the photoblog was pretty much founded on but which I seem to have strayed away from recently. I was deliberately looking for the really small stuff that still told some kind of story in terms of how it might have got there, and also have something aesthetically pleasing to my eye.

So, which of these two versions is ‘better’?

cracked steps 02.jpg

That’s the ‘first’ version above. It’s uncropped, but processed for colour and contrast and my old standby effect, the vignette. I won’t go into what I like about it just yet. Instead, here’s the second version:

cracked steps 01.jpg

Spot the difference? To get to here from v1.0 I deleted the vignette, cropped to 4:3 and applied a new vignette. I tried 1:1 but it wasn’t getting all the details in so as I prefer to use actual aspect ratios as opposed to just cropping arbitrarily this was the next best thing.

So, obviously the big creative decision here was to lop off that third level of steps on the right, tightening the focus to the 3×3 area of tiles with now just two levels of depth of field – the step on the left with the paint, and the next step down with the cracked tile. Odd numbers are traditionally more appealing (for example I don’t know a professional chef that chooses to place even numbers of any given dish elements on a plate, and I know a lot of chefs, despite my resplendently svelte appearance…), the frame is arguably cleaner and tighter and more effective with less distractions, it’s a neater, easier to ‘get’ nice close up urban detail shot. Resize for web, upload, boom, done.

No – see, I deliberately framed the original the way I did because I liked that little slice of the darker, softer third step on the right. I felt it led the eye across the image from left to right, gave it more sense of depth and also a definite je ne sais pas that was less obvious and ‘one-note’ than the cropped version.

Most people I’ve asked preferred the cropped version given the choice. I on the other hand keep going back to the less cliched and more personal composition.

I want to post one of them on my glass eye but I have no idea which one, which in itself raises an interesting question: am I asking because I want to post the one that people will like the most, as opposed to the one that I personally envisaged? And if so, why am I compromising on what the blog is essentially for, which is to post photos that are first and foremost for me?

I think ultimately I like both for different reasons and just can’t decide which single one I should post, but this not being a sweety shop and me not being 3 years old any more, there’ll be no tantrums, stamping of feet or martyrdom here! One of ’em is going up. I think it will be the original.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “daddy or chips? comic or sweets? cropped or uncropped?

  1. Mate, stick up the first one! It’s the one I like best anyway. It still works in the “odd number” thing any how as there are 3 layers of depth. The second one looks boring in comparison and a little contrived if that make sense. Ultimately, it’s your decision amigo!

  2. It’s a conundrum I think most of us face. Personally I try to publish shots that I think are correct in my head but when you do get two (or three) different versions of one shot that you can’t decide between (usually cropping or mono/colour in my case) I tend to ask around for a second opinion.

    Gutless I know but what the hell 😉

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