Image Cropping – The WordPress way

A really bad photo - that the WordPress 'cropper' probably can't make look much worse

A really bad photo – that the WordPress ‘cropper’ probably can’t make look much worse

WordPress has made a decision – it doesn’t think much of your idea of photographic composition. The Reader now crops your image any old how. I quote: “Here’s the idea: the Reader stream is not the work itself, it’s an excerpt of the work. So, for text, we “crop” it and show just the first few lines. For photos, we do the same.’ Excuse me – a photo is a work in itself.

We take it, we process it, we may crop it to improve the composition, and the end result is how we want it to be seen. We don’t want some arbitrary computer at WordPress to take a pair of editing scissors to it and chop a bit of the image out and display that bit.

If you wonder what I am talking about, then open the WordPress Reader and see how images are being mangled in the last 2-3days. And here is the hilarious bit. The guy who penned the WordPress article ‘A refreshed Reader for 2017’, (click here to view) from which the quote above is taken is a photographer himself (Derek Powazek). Here’s what he writes in reply to a comment made about his article: “Wanna know a secret? I’m actually a photographer, too. (I even ran a photography magazine back in the day.)” Words fail me.

Here’s my own comment appended to Derek’s article:

‘Has WordPress decided that it doesn’t like bloggers who post images in their blogs, and specifically doesn’t like photographers for whom Images are the heart of their regular Posts? I ask that question because suddenly the Reader is cropping our images in a totally arbitrary fashion; in many instances completely ruining the composition and thereby often making it appear that our images appear as the work of novices with no artistic sense whatever. Would someone in WordPress management re-consider this frankly ridiculous decision please, or it is likely that many of us who are serious photographers, who wish our photography to be taken seriously, will decide to take our custom elsewhere.’

And in case you are wondering, I have deliberately posted a rubbish photo, because why bother to post anything meaningful. And yes, I do realise that Instagram generally crops images square (but the photographer has some control of which part of the image is displayed) and so does 500px, but there again the photographer has control over the part of the image that is displayed as a thumbnail square crop. WordPress just doesn’t care.

If you don’t like this wizard new idea, and don’t like the concept that an ‘excerpt’ of your photo is a good idea, then complain, Add a comment to Derek’s article. Make your voice heard. If this crazy way is not re-refreshed early in 2017, I for one will be leaving WordPress.

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About LensScaper

Hi - I'm a UK-based photographer who started out 45+ years ago as a lover of landscapes, inspired by my love of outdoor pursuits: skiing, walking and climbing. Now retired, I seldom leave home without a camera and I find images in unexpected places and from different genres. I work on the premise that Photography is Art and that creativity is dependent on the cultivation of 'A Seeing Eye'. I'm not averse to manipulating images to produce derivatives that may sometimes be far removed from the original.
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38 Responses to Image Cropping – The WordPress way

  1. Dina says:

    This is most alarming news, Andy! Thank you for sharing this. I had no idea, I’ll have to look into it properly and complain. So sorry to see you leaving WP, what a pity.
    Best regards, Hanne

    • LensScaper says:

      It is alarming Dina, and shows a scant regard for the integrity of a photographer’s work. I haven’t decided to leave yet. Maybe WordPress will rethink this idea – why not post a thumbnail of the image instead of a cut-down version of it?

      • Dina says:

        Great idea, Andy, I’ll suggest a thumbnail.
        And I do hope WP will change their mind. I read the article and all the comments. The photographers are all concerned and don’t like it. Some of the fast-skimming readers like it. Because they don’t care about the images? mainly because they don’t have to scroll it seems. Aaaaah.
        Have a good weekend.

  2. shoreacres says:

    First of all, it is rare for WP to reconsider any of its decisions. It’s happened twice in the eight years I’ve been here. So, don’t hold your breath.

    Honestly, I can see some advantages to the changes to the reader. I’ve never used it, and the primary reason is that many of the people I follow post many times a week — sometimes, many times a day — and it simply was too much to scroll and scroll and scroll. The snippets would make the reader more usable: for me.

    The other thing is that I’ve never read any post in the reader. I receive notifications of new posts via email, and depend upon that. I always click through to the post itself, and do my reading and commenting there. Consequently, changes to the reader have been irrelevant to me. I don’t use it anyway.

    The only thing that bothers me is that so many photographers are talking of leaving WP. I’d hate to see that happen. To my mind, how a post looks in the reader doesn’t make a bit of difference. It’s how it looks in the post that matters. Others clearly feel differently.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks for those thoughts Linda. I like the ease and speed with which I can flick through the Reader viewing work from those I follow, but also using key words to find new photography. For me that is faster than opening an email account on-line and then having to open each individual email, and load the images, and then go to WordPress to make a comment.
      In the 1980s I worked as a Judge, and occasionally as a Selector for exhibitions and I learnt from that experience that first impressions are crucial. The changes in the way Images are now shown in the Reader means that at first glance many images have now lost their integrity, the arbitrary ‘cut’ by a computer has ruined composition and the result will be that I, and I suspect others, will take one look at a Post in the Reader and move on – unattracted by what they see. We all know that the first line or two of writing should be the ‘hook’ that attracts a reader to read on. The same is true of an image – if viewers like what they see, they will want to see the image ‘up large’ and read the text. What surprises me the most is that the writer of the article is himself a photographer. All I can say is that he doesn’t understand the importance of composition. It’s really very sad. If space is an issue why on earth doesn’t WP choose to show the thumbnail of the image. Integrity is retained.

      • shoreacres says:

        I hadn’t even thought of thumbnails. That could be a possibility — giving people the option to have their images shown that way, or simply using a thumbnail or everyone might be a reasonable way to deal with the issue.

        The other thing I realized is that I don’t use the reader to find other people’s work, and I don’t worry about readers finding me through the reader. Perhaps I should, but most new readers come to me through Google searches. Perhaps that’s a result of being essentially a writer rather than a photographer. That might shape my view of the reader, too.

  3. Thanks for that Andy. Not very appealing for photographers at all.

  4. oneowner says:

    Thanks, Andy. I left my own comment but I doubt that any negative feedback would do any good. Maybe I should crop my photos to fit the allowed Reader format.

    • LensScaper says:

      Sadly you may well be right, Ken. If we knew how the image would be cut, then what you suggest would make sense. But from the images I have viewed, the cut is inconsistent. Why don’t they just show thumbnails.

  5. I too was concerned to see what has happened to the reader. I’m certainly with you and will leave my comments elsewhere. Two phrases come to mind… “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it…!” and “A picture can paint a thousand words…” Yet wordpress have decided to edit pictures! It makes no sense.

  6. paula graham says:

    Worrying…and sad. Thank you for making us aware…although I could not fail to notice that there had been a lot of change in the outlay of the reader, with which I view followers posts…you get used to it!!

  7. …and if you are interested is the rant I submitted to Derek’s article… I wonder if it will actually be approved and commented on?

    It appears WordPress have taken a narrow view on what makes the Reader useful and interesting.
    Somehow scrolling seems to have taken priority over content! Aaaagh! Its the beginning of the end!!!
    I have a number of WordPress photoblogs and follow a lot of fellow photographers. Having our work edited simply to make things easier to scroll through somewhat misses the point of having a reader in the first place. I thought the idea of a reader was to draw people in rather than encourage them to skim over articles and visual content.
    I have encouraged people to use WordPress over the years. This is because the blogs are great and easy to manage and also because the Reader feature worked so well. I am now far less likely to encourage others to come on board.
    Two phrases which come to mind…
    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – There was nothing wrong with the previous version.
    “A picture can paint a thousand words” – Cropping images does nothing for the bloggers who take time to post work they have spent time creating. Often images will have taken longer to create than many written works.
    A question which I cannot find the answer to is, which and why some photographs appear very small and others are cropped to the full width of the reader? It is inconsistent and messy. Any thoughts about why WordPress have opted for something which leaves users wondering how their post might appear in the Reader??? I’m not even sure which part of a photo will appear in the cropped version?
    Editing visual content is almost disrespectful of the work and the people who created it.
    Change can be good but these changes seem to have focussed on speed of use rather than content which completely misses the point of blogging!
    Wordpress over the years have no doubt got a lot of visual artists on board because their blogs and reader worked so well. The same cannot be said for the new reader.
    If people want a world that lasts just a few seconds then perhaps they would be better off using Twitter and perhaps WordPress should decide what they want their blogs to be about. Do they want people to make interesting and engaging content or do they want a whole bunch of people to simply create blogs which grab your attention but have no substance?
    I could carry on but I’m guessing my voice is in the minority.
    I may need to look elsewhere. Somewhere that respects visual work instead of editing it!

    • LensScaper says:

      Well said and well written PC. I agree with everything you say. It seems to me that WP is trying to make it easier for people to flick through the reader, and it is true that you can move quicker through it. I have no objection to that per se – we can go slowly or fast, it is up to us. We are all familiar with the idea that ideally the first sentence of anything written should encourage the reader to read more. What WP have done to images – which is to cut images arbitrarily and inconsistently – is to ruin the integrity and composition of an image that is the output of a lot of work and careful thought. That is frankly insulting to photographers. If space is an issue, what is wrong with simply showing the thumbnail version of the image.

    • Meanderer says:

      Hello there. Their reply to me regarding the seemingly random cropping of images to either thumnail or letterbox was that if you write more than 100 characters to accompany the image, the photo will be cropped to thumbnail. Otherwise it automatically goes to the letterbox format.

    • Sue says:

      Speed of use is the way the 21st century seems to work……

  8. Meanderer says:

    Hello Andy. I left a comment on the blog as soon as I saw what they had done to the Reader. My point was that a photoblogger is penalised if they add complementary text to their photo, as the image is then cropped to thumnail size rather than the (also not very good) letterbox size. On the plus side, the Reader scrolls more smoothly on my very old laptop, which tends to grumble when I ask too much of it!

    I agree with Shoreacres who says they don’t use the Reader to look at other people’s blogs. I have emails notifications which I click on to get to the actual site. I’ve always done that. Very rarely do I ‘like’ a post direct from the Reader – but I have done it.

    Philosophically, I think it’s part of a move towards quick and easy access to things rather than leaning towards quality – part of everyday life today. Speed matters above all else. We don’t know how to slow down and be patient. It’s probably been designed for people who use tablets and smart phones to view blogs. It’s hard to fight against this tide, however whilst there’s still the facility to use WP the old-fashioned way, I shall continue to use it. I would say to you, don’t leave – we have an excellent supportive community here – something I value very much. And, they might just take our comments on board and change things for the better in light of them 🙂

    • LensScaper says:

      Hi Meanderer – thanks for your thoughtful comments. One of the reasons I use the Reader to catch up on the Blogs I ‘Follow’ is because it is a quick and easy way to scroll through the latest entries. I find viewing them individually as emails is a lot more time consuming. The gripe I have though is really that quick and easy should not be at the expense of arbitrarily cropping images to fit a designated space. As I have written in reply to others photographers work hard to create images, and to find that an image’s integrity is at the mercy of a computer that chops the image to ‘fit’ is very disappointing. What’s wrong with portraying an images as a thumbnail and using the remaining space for text. We can only hope that some common sense will prevail at WP.

  9. Sue says:

    Ghastly…I have complained. I would prefer not to leave WordPress, but may have to consider it

  10. athyfoto says:

    I don’t understand the problem here. OK so I scroll through the reader, see an “excerpt” and click on it. I see the full image, click it again and it’s on a neat dark background.

    • LensScaper says:

      The problem is that images get cropped to fit the allocated space in Reader and you have no control over that. If you happen to believe, as I do, that first impressions are important, then you would be concerned if WP arbitrarily cropped your composition and in so doing wrecked the image. It is happening. I view about fifty posts each day. Previously I saw the writer’s primary image as the photographer intended it to be seen and it was easy to know which Posts I wanted to read through and which images I wanted a more detailed look at. Now it is very difficult to judge images at first glance – heads are cropped off, flowers cut in half, and compositional sense lost.

  11. shoreacres says:

    I’ve been pondering this, and remembered something from about a year ago: maybe more. WP decided that it would be good to post an estimated reading time with each entry. WordPress writers went berserk — me, included. What was happening was that a post containing one of my poems, for example, would be judged as a 2 minute read, while long, meandering posts might be judged to required 30 minutes. What was happening, of course, is that the great algorithm machine was judging reading time only on word count.

    We really griped, and commented, and criticized, and laid out our case, and finally it got changed.
    When I looked at the comment thread with the original announcement just now, I see evidence that you’re being heard. WordPress has a habit of not approving negative comments for the public threads, so you have to look at their responses to see what’s up. I think the photographers’ comments are having an effect.

    • LensScaper says:

      Computers are dumb! Infuriatingly right sometimes but an algorithm cannot quantify quality. I am still fuming about WP’s concept that you can create an ‘excerpt’ from the photograph.

  12. I don’t use the reader very often, so I don’t know how long it would have been before I saw what WP is doing to images. I absolutely agree with you about first impressions, Andy, and for that reason voiced my own complaint to WP. We’ll see if they post it.

  13. I notice that Derek hasn’t yet approved my comment on his blog post! So I imagine there are other comments, from people who do not share his enthusiasm, which he has decided not to publish.
    I have just published an image (with words) on Little Bits of Sheffield so I thought I’d get to see the whole thumbnail photograph in the reader. However the photo is in portrait orientation and even the thumbnail is now cropped in half!
    It appears that WordPress have no regard for photographic content whatsoever!
    I thought you might be interested to know that with or without words photographic content is arbitrarily edited for the WordPress Reader.
    I guess some of my comments might be better directed at WordPress but I don’t know where to send them? Any ideas…?

    • LensScaper says:

      All well said PC. My comment on the article stills sits ‘awaiting moderation’. I’ve since posted a second post explaining exactly what is happening to images and offering some advice as to how to avoid the worst of the damage that WP is seeking to inflict on our images.

  14. My latest post (today) on Postcard Cafe has no words and is in portrait orientation. It shows in Reader as a cropped thumbnail and is even more minimalist than the original photograph! Basically it just shows a grey (letter)box…!

    • LensScaper says:

      You are getting the dreaded thin horizontal slice enlarged to fill the ‘Space’in the Reader window. If you post more than 100 characters of text along with your image this can be avoided -see my more recent post ‘Avoiding the Cut’.

  15. bythebriny says:

    The new reader layout is poorly thought out and crudely executed. I use the reader to keep up with the people I follow, so I’m feeling this change keenly. As other people have noted above, everything seems geared for speed…is that really how art and literature should be consumed, like fast food?

    I’m disillusioned and seriously thinking about leaving WordPress. I have a website where I could write my blogs, and although I might not get the traffic I do here, at least I could control how my work is viewed.

    • LensScaper says:

      Thanks very much for your thoughts and also your visit. Clearly you feel the same as I do, and many other photographers. A social media site that does not respect the integrity of its members’ work is on a slippery slope.

  16. MELewis says:

    Feel exactly as you do, and I’m not even a photographer! The new look Reader makes everything too small and neatly displayed in uniform boxes for me – completely unclickable. What galls me most is that WordPress feels like my home, a place where I work and play, and changes seem to come out of nowhere based on a group of ‘happiness engineers” whims. Also, I like you took the time to comment on Derek’s blog (before comments were closed) and returned today to see my comment deleted. There is a cult of the politically correct on this platform and if you don’t comment in a way they find sufficiently positive and acceptable, you will be shut down.

    • LensScaper says:

      Bonjour and thank you for your visit and for your comments and thoughts. I know you and I are not alone in our dissatisfaction with what WP has done to the Reader. Some of the images I have been looking through in the last few days have been completely wrecked by the arbitrary way (no human involved) in which images are crudely cropped. it’s a sad day when companies get too big and ignore their customer base.

  17. Chillbrook says:

    Hi Andy,
    I certainly don’t like the sound of this idea. Facebook crops my images when they are posted there directly from WordPress. I hate it and the fact that WordPress is now doing this without any control by us, the photographers, is really not good. I will most certainly be adding a comment. As you say, we take great care to compose our photographs and to have the composition compromised in such an arbitary way is really not a wizard idea.

    • LensScaper says:

      My comments on the Reader were never published – they didn’t like my criticism – but there are now so many comments from photographers all saying the same thing. WP will need to listent.

  18. dharmaremedy says:

    I just began with WP and the first thing I tried to do was put one of my photographs on my static home page. I thought I was just stupid when I could not get the whole picture. Is there really no way to compose a page with control over its contents?

    • LensScaper says:

      You will find an answer to your query somewhere in the Support area of WP. I had a similar problem when I started and wanted to use a banner image at the top of my page. I’ve been trying to find the relavant item in Support to help but I can’t in a quick search. Here is an article about using an image as a header https://en.support.wordpress.com/custom-header-image/.
      If you can’t find an answer to your query, then contact support or look at the forum threads – someone will have also experienced this problem and will have an answer for you. Good luck

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