Cropping and rotating images
The Crop Overlay tool makes it simple to improve your composition, crop away unwanted edge detail, and even straighten your image.
Select the raw image of the model in the yellow chair in the Grid view or Filmstrip and press the D key to switch to the Develop module.
Hide the left panel group to enlarge the work area; you’ll find keyboard shortcuts for showing and hiding any or all of the panels listed beside the commands in the Window > Panels menu. If you’re not already in the Loupe view, press the D key or click the Loupe view button in the Toolbar. If you don’t see the Toolbar, press the T key.
Click the Crop Overlay tool button just below the Histogram panel, or press the R key. A crop overlay rectangle appears on the image in the Loupe view and an options panel for the Crop Overlay tool opens above the Basic panel.
Drag the top corners inward and the area outside of the crop overlay will darken, giving you a better idea what the crop will look like. Drag the image to reposition the crop. Move your pointer outside the corners of the overlay, and it turns into a curved double-headed arrow, allowing you to drag clockwise or counterclockwise to rotate the image.
The crop overlay includes a set of compositional aids you can use to make better crop adjustments to your images. The default overlay is the Rule Of Thirds, shown above. Press the O key to cycle between the overlays. The Golden Spiral overlay is shown in the illustration at the right.
Changing crop overlays
These crop overlays are meant to be guidelines or suggestions for aligning and cropping your image. In the example to the right, I am using the Rule Of Thirds overlay. This is one of the most common photographic principles: any image that puts the subject at one of the intersecting points on a Rule Of Thirds grid is more compositionally interesting. By using the Rule Of Thirds grid, I can crop to ensure my friend Kena’s face is at that top right intersecting point, making the picture more interesting.
You may not need all of the guides that are available, however. Here’s how you we can limit the amount you see.
Choose Tools > Crop Guide Overlay > Choose Overlays To Cycle. In the resulting dialog box, you can deselect any of the guides that you do not find necessary. Click OK, and the next time you use the Crop Guide Overlays menu, you will only see the ones that you have selected.
Using the Straighten tool
In the Crop Overlay tool’s options panel is the Straighten tool. Its icon looks like a level, and you use it to adjust your images if they are askew.
Click the tool in the panel and your pointer turns into a crosshair and a level.
Move over the picture and drag along something that should be horizontally level or Shift-drag along something that should be vertically straight. In this case, I am using the floor behind Kena. Drag a line that runs along your straight edge, and the picture will straighten itself along that guide.
Cropping to specific dimensions
Photographers often want to lock their picture’s crop to the specific ratio it was shot at (in this example, the aspect ratio of a DSLR sensor, 3:2). There are times, however, when you may want to change your cropping ratio, perhaps creating a square crop for Instagram, a wider Facebook cover post, or a 16:9 wide shot.
With the Crop Overlay tool active, click to the right of Aspect, and you’ll see a menu of commonly used photo sizes, such as 1x1 (square crop), 4x5 (great for making 8x10 images), and 16x9. For this example, choose the 16x9 crop to give the image a little more of a cinematic feel. The crop overlay automatically resizes, and now is constrained by the 16x9 crop.
Seeing your crop better
One last piece of advice: when you are making a crop, make sure that you get rid of the Lightroom interface while you are making judgements on the crop. The best way to do this is to press Shift-Tab on the keyboard. This will hide the panels, Module Picker, and Filmstrip, giving you the most real estate for the picture.
Once the panels are hidden, press the letter L twice. The first press of the L key will switch Lightroom to Lights Dim mode, dimming the interface by 80%. The second time you press the L key turns the lights off entirely (Lights Out mode). This gets rid of all of the distractions around the edges, and lets you focus on only the elements you want in the picture as you move the crop around.
Press Return/Enter to complete your crop, then press the letter L to turn the lights back on, and press Shift-Tab to bring back the panels.