If you think that cropping a photo is just as simple as cutting it down to the size you need for your print layout, then you’re missing out on all that the crop tool has to offer. Think of the crop tool as an invisible frame that draws the eye towards the most important aspects of your photo. Making the right cuts in your photo can have a drastic impact on the visuals and can even manipulate the way the audience engages with it emotionally.
1. Use the C Key to Open Crop Tool
Traditionally, most of the people had to select the crop tool from the toolbar section, But, now you can do the same thing by using the C key on your keyboard. Just tap the C key once and it will enable the Crop tool.
2. Crop your photos to tell a story
They say a picture is worth a thousand words; the crop tool is what gives you the power to turn those thousand words into a story. You can’t exactly begin to crop a picture until you know what that story is going to be. What message are you trying to deliver to the audience?
Make sure that your photograph still tells that story when you’re done cropping it. You don’t want to cut away any details that might change that story or alter the message in any way. All of the necessary pieces have to be there for the picture to do what it’s supposed to do.
3. Lock the Aspect Ratio of the Crop Area
Suppose you selected an area to crop, but later on, found out that the area gets misplaced by mistake. It’s really painful as you have to select the resize area again. Now, you don’t have to worry about this, as you can use the Shift key to lock the aspect ratio of the crop area.
4. Swap the Orientation of the Crop Border
Using the X key on your keyboard, you can easily swap the orientation of the cropped image. This way, you can crop an image either vertically or horizontally.
5. Leave out unnecessary details
It’s equally as important to take out any of the unnecessary details that might distract from the story you’re trying to tell. You don’t want your photograph to end up in a listicle of funniest photobombs, so scour the background for anything that might draw focus away from your subject. Pay close attention to the edges of the photo—the areas furthest away from the subject are the areas that the photographer are most likely to have neglected.
People make for the biggest distractions—our eyes are naturally drawn to faces in photographs. But our eyes are also drawn to text, especially if we can read an entire word or sentence. Anything that breaks the flow of the photograph or draws attention away from the subject should be on the chopping block.
6. Don’t cut off limbs at the joint
Not to be morbid, but cropping photographs is a bit like being a killer in a horror movie—you’ll often have to make serious decisions about which body parts to cut off.
A general rule of thumb is to avoid cropping people’s limbs at the joint. It creates an awkward visual effect that looks more like an amputation than a framing device. You should also stay away from cropping the little appendages like fingers, toes or even ears. Crop your bodies at the torso, waist, thighs, shin or upper arm to make them less awkward.
7. Add Crop Overlays
By default, Photoshop uses a third crop overlay rule, but you can customize it using the Overlay option. Click the overlay icon located in the options bar menu. You’ll find six different crop overlay there. You can go quickly go through each one of them by pressing the O key.
8. Showing and Hiding the Crop Overlay
Click on the Overlay icon located at the options bar. You’ll find some additional options there. You can enable the Auto Show Overlay option to display the crop overlay. On the contrary, you can select Never Show Overlay option to hide the crop overlay.
9. For a series of photos, keep your cropping consistent
When you have a series of photos next to one another, consider making them look more like a yearbook than a comic book. A yearbook has pictures that are all cropped in a similar way to create a uniform look. A comic book has pictures in a variety of sizes and positions because a comic book is meant to be read one picture at a time. That works fine for narrative purposes, but a series of photos cropped in many different ways can be distracting and sloppy if it’s not done intentionally. Unless you’re purposely trying to create movement and flow between each of your photos, keep your cropping and straightening consistent.
10. Don’t accidentally crop out the horizon
When cropping a photo of a landscape or any photograph with a definitive horizon line, pay close attention to the position of that horizon. Generally, the best choice is keep it at either of the two horizontal lines on a rule of thirds grid. If you cut it too short, the photo will stop looking like a landscape and start to look like an awkwardly cropped photo of whatever the biggest object in the frame happens to be. If the photo is supposed to be a landscape, the focal point of the image should probably be the land itself, and that’s easiest to do with a horizon line.