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Whether you need to straighten a crooked horizon, or you just aesthetically want to change the framing of an image, cropping can have a very significant impact on the final appearance of a photo. In this particular case I have a little bit of a crooked line that I'd like to straighten out But you could have a variety of reasons for applying cropping. Let's take a look at how we can use the Crop tool in Photoshop, to straighten or simply re-frame a photo. I'll start off by choosing the Crop tool on the toolbox, and that will enable a cropping view.
In Photoshop CS6, things have changed rather dramatically in terms of the behavior of the Crop tool. I no longer need to click and drag to draw an initial crop. I have a crop from the start, and I can drag any edge or corner inward or outward to adjust the size of my crop. I can also drag the crop around the image, but notice now that the image itself is what's moving by default. In addition, I can move the mouse outside that Crop Box, and click and drag in order to rotate the image.
And once again, it is the image now that is moving by default rather than the Crop Box. That can make it a lot easier to evaluate when you've achieved a good alignment for the photo. Let's take a look at some of the options on the Options Bar. First, we have a pop-up that allows us to choose an aspect ratio for the photo. For example, we can lock in a square aspect ratio, or an aspect ratio that will suit a particular frame size, for example. If we leave the option set to Unconstrained, then we can adjust the cropping any way we'd like. You can also specify values for the crop.
This is the width and height of the crop. So if I set a value of two for width and one for height, for example, then my crop will be constrained to a shape that is twice as wide as it is tall. I can also rotate the crop box. Essentially flipping the values so that now I have a crop that is twice as tall as it is wide. In addition, we have a Straighten tool built into the Crop tool. I can turn that option on and then simply click and drag across the image to identify a line that should be perfectly horizontal or vertical. The rotation of the image will then adjust accordingly. We can also view an overlay on the image, you can see here that the default is the rule of thirds.
I can also display a grid. I can display diagonal lines. I can display a triangle, a golden ratio. We have a variety of options available to us here. We can also specify whether we want to auto show the overlay. In other words, only show the overlay when we mouse over the image, or to always show the overlay, or never show the overlay. We can also cycle between the overlays using the letter O on the keyboard, and we can cycle that overlay orientation with Shift+O. I'll go ahead and leave the option set to rule of thirds, and then I'll take a look at some of the settings that are available.
Classic mode will cause the Crop tool to behave as it did in previous versions of Photoshop. I happen to prefer the new style for the Crop tool though so I'll leave that option turned off. I can also specify whether I want to auto center the preview. With this option turned on, when I adjust the crop you'll notice that the center stays centered. If I turn the option off, when I adjust the size that center will not stay centered, the image will stay right where it is. I can also specify whether I want to display the cropped area.
That's the area outside of the image based on the current crop. If I turn that option off, you'll see that the cropped area is not visible, so I'd have to move that cropping around in order to see a different portion of the photo. I'll go ahead and leave both of those options turned on. I also generally use the crop shield. With that option turned on we can see a shaded area outside of the crop box. So that way we can see what's there but we can get a better sense of what that cropping will actually look like for the photo.
For the color, we can choose to match the canvas or to use a custom color. We can also adjust the opacity and we can cause an automatic adjustment of that opacity based on the brightness of the image itself. I'll leave those options as they are now. And then I'll also adjust my setting back to Unconstrained so that I can fine tune the crop. In this case, really I'm mostly focused on just straightening off that horizon or that artificial horizon line there, and not wanting to lose any of the pixels in the image if I don't have to. So I'll make sure that all four corners are inside the actual image area. I also have one more option in the options bar, and that's a check box for Delete cropped pixels.
By default Lightroom will now not delete pixels that are cropped so that you can always get back to those pixels by choosing Image > Reveal all from the menu. That also means that your background image layer will be converted to a normal image layer. The idea is that we're able to protect those original pixels so that if at any time we need to get them back, they're still available to us. I highly encourage you to leave this option turned off. But if your concerned about file size you can certainly turn that option on and then the image will be cropped based on the settings you've applied. And all of those pixels that fall outside the bounding box for the crop will be removed from the image.
I'll go ahead and turn off that check box, and now I've fine-tuned the overall crop, I've adjusted the rotation, I've adjusted the sizing. It looks like this is going to be a good improvement for my photo, and I'm ready to apply it. I can press the Esc key, or click the Cancel button on the options bar, if I'm not happy with my crop. But if I am happy with the crop, I can click the Commit button on the options bar. I can press Enter or Return on the keyboard or I can simply double-click inside the Crop box. I'll go ahead and apply that crop, and as you can see the image looks much much better.
And again at any time if I need to get back to my original pixels I can do so because I left the Delete Cropped Pixels check box turned off. To get back to those pixels, I can simply choose Image, and then Reveal All from the menu, and the canvas size will be expanded to reveal the original pixels. Of course, the rotation is still being applied to that image, so I would need to take that into account. In this case, though, I don't need to get back to any of those original pixels. I was perfectly happy with the crop. So I will simply choose Edit > Step backward to go back to the cropped version of my photo. So you can see Photoshop CS6 includes some significant improvements to the Crop tool making it easier than ever to straighten and crop an image as needed.
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