Quote Originally Posted by Tom Stanworth
I guess it comes down to priorities. I would feel that the proportions of a print are more important than enlargement size. I would therefore rather crop a 6x6 to a rectangular print (if that is the proportions I thought it needed) than to accept it as a sqaure (and therefore not crop the neg in the darkroom). I agree that the 'frame' can help compose, but it hinders as much as it assists.
My point was that the hindrance/help is relative to the photographer, not an absolute given. I like to use my camera's frame to compose because it gives me clear borders around my subject.

The world around us is not presented in 1:1 or 1.25:1 ratios. The photographer gets to choose the way final images are presented and does not have to accept the proportions of a viewfinder. The right shape is right shape. If that is square fine, if rectangular fine regardless of the viewfinder shape you started with. Not allowing oneself this flexiblity surely is a compromise on the aesthetic qualities of the image unless size is more important - personally it never is for me. I would rather have a well balanced 12x16 than a 16x16 thats less good, if the aesthetics were stronger in the rectangular format. I would consider the keeping 4 unwanted inches pointless.

You say, "[cropping a 6x6 to rectangular] If you want to make an 20x24 out of a 6x6, you will need to do a little bit more enlargement than if you did it from a 6x7, and that could make a difference on your finished product. It's actually not a compromise: you're trying to maximise the potential of your tools." You are compromising if you think the image looks right as a rectangle but wont crop it because you dont want to waste 'neg area' thus sticking to a square!

Are aesthetics not more important than sheer size? Either way it is a compromise, but I take photos to produce things I hope are aesthetically pleasing rather than just 'BIG'
If you only have a 6x6 camera with you and you see a brilliant rectangle area, then go ahead and crop; but if you have the luxury of having a backup 6x7 with you, then you should rather use it because you will lessen the technical impact of enlargement. I'm just suggesting caution in the process of cropping/not cropping. I'm also pointing to the fact that it is worthwhile to be attuned to the specific impact of your tools upon your work, and not try to overcome them all the time.

When you have in mind a square or a rectangle picture, you should have the ability to choose material that will gets in your way as less as possible.
I am not saying that you should fundamentally strive for print quality above artistic qualities, but that if you know how to use wisely your technical possibilities, then you've enhanced the potential and quality of your impact.

The composition of an image is not made in a fixed order: you may start with subject matter, choice of a frame shape, exposure, and printing, but you may as well start with frame shape (because you only have one camera with you), THEN subject matter, etc. In the latter case, you have two ways to go: either crop because you don't feel the frame shape you have is adequate, or not crop and explore instead what the specific frame shape you have with you can do.

The question of what approach should be preferred is a moot one; when you conceptualize things like "form" and "content" you will realize that the influence goes both ways. Sometimes your form will dictate your content, sometimes your content will dictate your form. Obviously they will lead you to compromises, but a life without compromises just doesn't exist.