To Crop or Not to Crop?
There is a question among photographers with different skill levels: is cropping a good thing to do or is it best avoided? Actually, there's no particular answer to that, and both using and avoiding cropping has its own advantages and disadvantages. However, here are some things to consider while answering to the "to crop or not to crop?" question.
"No cropping" philosophy is most often supported by experienced photographers who work in this field for a long time. For example, if you ran your business, you should have known that editors didn't like silver tape or cropping masks on the originals you were sending in for consideration. This made you take the best picture you could in-camera, thus, you were getting better in getting the picture you really had wanted. Trying to do your best right away sharpens your vision and techniques; you learn to see the picture immediately within the scene. To make an image what you want it to be you need to learn to use your position and lenses to isolate the subject of photography. And if you're really serious about photography and make your living with it, this will not only improve your skills but also increase the acceptance rate of your work by various magazines and agencies.
Above that, to be creative at "full rate" it is desirable to get as close to result as possible on the shooting stage of photography. This will make your visual and technical skills to work good together. This allows you not to have any unwanted things in your picture, thus, not make any excuses in front of others, and what is most important, in front of yourself. Some cameras have problem of picturing more than you are actually seeing in the viewfinder. In order not to remember that all the time to make a good picture, or not to compose tightly enough to make sure you've eliminated things you don't want in the edges of the picture, it's a good idea to use a 100% viewfinder cameras. If you can't or don't want to do that, you can practice a little to see how much extra stuff you really get and learn to avoid it. And even with digital scanning and editing, it is better to have a good image to start with, and make it completely perfect with cropping afterwards.
On the other hand, cropping is widely used nowadays, especially by students. Nevertheless, professional photographers also use this technique sometimes. For example, you have a picture that can be a great panorama image, and you're working with 35mm ratio. Some patterns and designs work great as a square image. Nowadays, if you don't own a Hasselblad, you don't need to walk away from such pictures just because they don't fit the ratio of the 35mm. Don't limit your self-expression as an artist by anything.
So basically, if you're serious about photography, it is better to try to shoot as good picture as possible in the first place, and crop only when it is absolutely necessary, or not to crop at all. Cropping also can be used for some off-ratio pictures. On the other hand, if you're just learning or like to experiment, cropping may be a very good way to do all this.