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How to crop a picture to make it look great

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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There are many ways to improve most photos and images. Today we’re going to talk about cropping – it’s a simple but important part of Photoshop training. Cropping is re-framing a picture. It lets you remove distractions from the viewer and can also be used to direct the viewer’s attention.

The basics

When you choose the cropping tool in Photoshop you will see Width / Height / Resolution in the Options Bar. Note that you don’t have to fill in any figures for these options, you can simply start freeform cropping,
but the dimensions options gives you some additional abilities.

For example, if you know your result should be 1000px wide, you can put that in the width, but you can leave the height dimension blank. Now any cropped image will be 1000px wide, but its height will be determined by your mouse-determined selection, and it will be proportionate to its width (ie. it won’t be squeezed, squashed or out of proportion).

When you start cropping an image you will see the options in the Options Bar change. You can see drop down menu beside Crop Guide Overlay. These are grid tools to help you make a better crop. There are three choices – None / Rule of Thirds / Grid.

The Rule of Thirds

You might have heard about this rule before, but if you haven’t here’s a quick synopsis. It’s a method of composing an image by dividing it into 9 equal parts – three horizontal columns and three vertical columns. The idea is that by aligning the subject or focal points to one or more of these columns the visual dynamic and tension is increased and is more appealing than a photo with the subject placed in the centre.

Let’s have a look at this theory in practice. Here we have an image of a Thai Yak statue. On the left is the uncropped image. It has a distraction in the top left with the bright highlight.

The subject of the image is neither in the middle nor to the left. So let’s use the cropping tool to make a quick adjustment. On the right you can see the cropped image.

Here I’ve used the Rule of Thirds to align the focal points of the image. I’ve cropped it closer to the subject, removing the distraction on the top left, aligning the statue’s face to two of the thirds’ rules.

We hope this gives you a better understanding of how to crop your favorite images to make them look much better!

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