Digital Photography Tweaks – Crop

When you use a photo editor to level an image, as explained in the last post, you’re implicitly cropping your photograph. That’s because as you rotate to get the image level, there are edges that have to be cropped off for the image to remain rectangular.

Cropping is explicitly used to change the aspect ratio and/or remove some content from the edges of an image. That’s what this post will focus on. Take the picture below, of two of my twelve grandkids. I took this photo back in 2007. This picture is fine for most purposes. The two kids are clearly the focus of the image. But we can make it better.


With some cropping, the twins can be the whole picture instead of the central element. This is a much better image.


To crop this image in PSP you load the file into the Edit workspace and select the cropping tool. This will display a cropping rectangle on the image. I’ve circled the Edit workspace tab and cropping tool, and pointed to the corner of the cropping rectangle below. I also circled the option to maintain aspect ratio. I’ll explain that later. Again, click on the images to make them full size.


With the maintain aspect ratio option checked, you can resize the cropping rectangle by clicking on the corners or the sides, and dragging. This will keep the aspect ratio of the cropping rectangle while shrinking or enlarging it from the point where you clicked. If you uncheck the maintain aspect ratio option, just the corner or side you click on will move, and the aspect ratio of the rectangle will change. Play with this to see what I’m talking about.

You can move the cropping rectangle by clicking in the middle somewhere and dragging the rectangle around the image. Both kinds of actions are needed for most images. For this image I’ll uncheck the maintain aspect ratio option, and go for an image that is all kids and as little clutter as possible.


To complete the cropping action, you click on the check mark in the tool options, circled above, and your image is cropped. Just save the image file and you’re done.


Cropping is just as simple in GIMP. Open GIMP and then open the image file. Click on the Rectangle Select tool. If you choose you can then check the Fixed Aspect Ratio option, but for this example we’re going to leave it unchecked. Click in one corner of the image that you would like to crop from, and drag a select rectangle. You can adjust rectangle later, so getting that first corner perfect isn’t important. The Rectangle Select tool and Fixed Aspect Ratio option are circled in the example below. I’ve pointed to the corner of the select rectangle where the dragging handle is displayed. The corners and sides of the select rectangle will display dragging handles when the mouse pointer is over them. These are what you use to modify the select rectangle.


Like the cropping rectangle in PSP, you can move the corners or sides of the select rectangle in GIMP. You can move the select rectangle around by clicking in the middle and dragging it. Use these methods of modifying the select rectangle until you get it to encompass the image you want to crop.


To complete the cropping, you go to the Image pull down menu and click on Crop to Selection. Both are circled below.


Your image is cropped and ready to export. Export was explained in the Level post.


Preserving the aspect ratio was not important in this example. For images you’re going to want to print, or include in an album, where being the same size as the other images is important, aspect ratio is crucial. Play with cropping and see which you prefer. Again, if you have any questions post them in comments and I’ll be sure to respond.



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