CROPPING: Do it Wrong & You May Ruin a Photo Forever (VIDEO)

Ask a bunch of inexperienced photographers to name the easiest editing task they tackle, and most will likely give you a one-word answer: "Cropping." Yet, as you'll see in this eye-opening video from Landscape Photography University, incorrect cropping can spoil an image forever.

Instructor David Johnston is a landscape pro with a simple mission; namely, providing easy-to-follow tutorials that level up the success of your photography.  In this quick episode he reveals "what I wish I knew about cropping so that you don't ruin your photos."

The lesson begins with what Johnston calls a million dollar question: "Does cropping actually reduce resolution in your photos?" His answer, as you may suspect, is "pretty much yes," because any time you crop a photo down you're basically saying goodbye to those image pixels that made up the original shot."

Hence, the larger your crop the lower the resolution that will remain in the image at hand. Of course small crops, like those around the edges of the frame "are not that big of a deal." But it's important to remember that significant crops reduce image clarity and will destroy an image if you take things too far.

Other factors enter into the equation, and composition considerations can be a big deal. After all, that's a primary reason for cropping an image in the first place. That's why Johnston recommends cropping in the camera, even though is OK to frame shots a bit loosely for a bit of "wiggle room" during the editing process.

One warning is to never shoot an image in landscape mode if you plan to later crop it into a vertical. This doesn't make sense because you'll be removing so much of the file that the ultimate resolution will drop beyond acceptable levels—especially if you intend to print the photo, use it for publication, or add it to your portfolio.

Johnston explains the implications of cropping as pertains to printing, so you'll understand the limits of images with lower resolution, as well as the corresponding print sizes you'll be able to make without too much sacrifice in image quality. If you're fortunate enough to own a new super high-resolution camera, some of these problems fall by the wayside. Of course this raises the issue of paying big bucks for a camera capable of huge prints, only to whittle down the files so this is no longer a viable option.

One solution, as mentioned above, is cropping in the camera whenever possible, and another is to always have long lens in your bag. Johnston also suggests taking multiple photos at each location for a very simple reason: This way you carefully evaluate the composition of each shot, and then make appropriate adjustments before taking another crack at the same scene.

Johnston puts it like this: After capturing a photo decide what's attracting you to the subject, as well as what's distracting from the subject. Then amplify the best element(s) within the frame and judiciously remove the unwanted distractions by cropping as little as possible. This involves a compromise between maximum resolution and the most compelling composition of the scene before you.

Be sure to watch until the end, even though all this sounds simple, because Johnston has a few more helpful tips before devoting the last two minutes of the video to "a secret Lightroom Crop" tool for refining the results you achieve. We also suggest watching another tutorial we posted recently that explains a new Lightroom method for banishing noises in landscape, nature, and wildlife photographs.