Tips for when and why to crop a photo.
Image of a woman above a cityscape on a black background with crop marks around the photo border

Cropping removes content from the edges of a photo. There is more than one reason to crop.

Crop to improve composition

You may not always get composition right in your camera. That’s OK, because Photoshop gives you another chance at cropping after the shoot. 

Side by side images of a woman in a rowboat on the water, one side is cropped tighter on the person

When you select the Crop tool, a crop boundary appears around the image. Drag the edges of the boundary to define the area you want to crop. Drag the image inside the crop box to position it. 

As you crop, Photoshop offers overlays that represent principles of composition to guide you. For example, the Rule of Thirds overlay displays intersecting vertical and horizontal guides. To use this overlay, position your subject under an intersection of the guides. If you want to turn off the composition overlay, there’s a Crop tool option for that too.

Image of a woman in a rowboat with a grid overlay

Crop to straighten an image

If an image is crooked horizontally or vertically, you can straighten it with the Crop tool. The image rotates inside the crop boundary as you straighten. If straightening creates empty areas around the edges, you can set Photoshop to fill in those areas with content-aware fill as you crop.

Side by side photos of a glacier showing crop and straighten in progress and the resulting image

Crop to change the size and shape of an image

When you’re preparing an image for a particular use, you may need to crop it to a specific shape, like a square for Instagram or a vertical to fit your favorite photo frame. To control the shape of a cropped image, choose a ratio of width to height from the Crop tool’s aspect ratio menu. Don’t confuse aspect ratio with inches or pixels; an aspect ratio is just the proportional relationship between width and height.

If you know the exact size to which you want to crop a photo, the Crop tool can help you with that too. Just enter the width, height, and resolution in the crop options, and adjust the edges of the crop boundary to include the area you want to keep. This is a great way to resize an image when the Image Size command doesn’t give you the result you’re looking for.

Crop to change the size and shape of an image

When you’re preparing an image for a particular use, you may need to crop it to a specific shape, like a square for Instagram or a vertical to fit your favorite photo frame. To control the shape of a cropped image, choose a ratio of width to height from the Crop tool’s aspect ratio menu. Don’t confuse aspect ratio with inches or pixels; an aspect ratio is just the proportional relationship between width and height.

If you know the exact size to which you want to crop a photo, the Crop tool can help you with that too. Just enter the width, height, and resolution in the crop options, and adjust the edges of the crop boundary to include the area you want to keep. This is a great way to resize an image when the Image Size command doesn’t give you the result you’re looking for.

Side by side images of an ocean sunset with results of a crop to focus in on one area

Crop to remove content at the edges of an image

Cropping is the easiest way to remove unwanted objects or people at the edges of a photograph. Anything outside the crop boundary will disappear from your image. If you’d rather not delete that content permanently, uncheck the option to delete cropped pixels. The next time you use the Crop tool, those pixels will still be there, and you can recrop to bring them back into view.

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