Cropping for Composition in Photoshop
Let's talk about cropping in Photoshop, and more specifically, let's talk about cropping as it pertains to composition specifically. So let's go ahead and open up these images. So when we talk about the crop tool in Photoshop, it gives us a lot more capabilities than it did in Lightroom. The crop tool, and we can find it right over here, you can see that I have my perspective crop over there. But here's my crop tool. It's got a lot of different variables in it. Now, we talked about menus. Let's talk about what happens within a tool once you select that tool. So once I select the crop tool, you can see along the top, it's gonna ask me what my ratio is. And I have the ability to select this ratio just like I did in Adobe Camera Raw. So if I wanted to set this to one to one, it's gonna go ahead and change my crop area to a one to one. If I change this to four by five, now we've got an eight by ten look. This is set to four by five, see that? If I wanna switch those, I can either type this...
in manually to be five here and four here, or I just click this little button right here and it'll automatically do it for me and keep it within the constraints of my image. I have a clear button here, which will clear out anything that I had in these ratio settings. I also have the straighten tool. So the straighten tool is right here and this image would definitely be one that I would probably straighten right along the back here. And then I also have the different types of grids that come with that tool. So just like the grids that you saw in the presentation before this, we now have those grids available to us when we're making our decisions on cropping. So if I were to go ahead and change this to, let's say, let's just keep it at the rule of thirds for now. And I click on my image, you'll see that I have the rule of thirds guide here. If I click and hold on this, I can have a grid. I can also have a diagonal. I can also have triangles, just like we saw in the presentation. If at any time I wanna change that on the fly, I've got the O key. Press O, and O will change that on the fly. Some of these, like the golden ratio, if it's not turning in the right direction, if I press shift O, it will rotate around so I can get it in the right direction that I want it to be. Again, these are all hot keys, but if you look up here you can see cycle overlay, set to O, that cycles that overlay. Or shift O allows me to cycle the overlay's rotation around that image. For this photograph let's just keep it right at the rule of thirds, and if I take my straighten tool, I can straighten right along here. So I said straightening and cropping work hand in hand, right? 'Cause when I straighten this, we're also gonna crop some of our image out. And if I press enter, I have a couple options up here also. Let me just go over this before we press enter. You see delete cropped pixels here? If I have that checked, it's going to make sure that everything that I have outside of that crop goes away. It's gone, it's been deleted. If I leave that unchecked, it will allow me to still be able to go back to that at any time. Now notice what happens if you can see it in this layer down there, we'll see what happens when we leave deleted cropped pixels unchecked. The next thing is content aware. And this is a really important one. In Adobe Camera Raw, or Lightroom, you don't have the ability to go outside of the image. Here, if I go outside of this image with this crop, I'm selecting some of that area up there. See that? And it's transparent. If I press enter and commit to this, that's still gonna remain transparent. But if I hit this button right here, that says content aware, and then I commit to this, all I have to do is press this little check box, or press enter, Photoshop's gonna look at that area and say, that area shouldn't be transparent. Let me look at all the other areas around it, and I'll fill it in for you. And that's awesome. Because that has saved my butt in so many images it's not even funny. There's one moment, one of my favorite photographs of Olympic National Park. I was just about to leave, blue hour was set and almost over, and there was some water coming up on the rocks, and I was about to run away, and I saw this shot, and I had to take it. So I turned around and just put my camera down, took the shot, and I was tilted like this. You know, it's like I didn't have time to think about that, it was just shoot and see what you get. So I brought it back in post, brought it into Adobe Camera Raw, straightened it, I was like, ah, I cut the top of that off, I'll just dump it. But it was the best photo of the entire night. So if I were to just throw that away, not knowing that I could fill in those extra areas with that content aware, I would've lost one of my favorite images, it was my best image of the entire trip in Olympic National Park. It could've been thrown away. But because we have that ability to content aware fill, to see the areas around it, assess what's happening all over that image, and replace that with a really good proper color that if we even zoom in there, we can't even tell the difference. Look at that. Pretty incredible stuff. So now along with that, we're talking about cropping for composition here. So I'm gonna leave this at the rule of thirds. And I'm gonna just look at some of the ways that this image can be cropped for composition here. If I press and hold shift on this, you see what it's doing when I press and hold shift? It's keeping the constraints of that ratio that I want, all in that crop. If I unhold shift, I get to move it around freely. So I often will press shift while I crop, so that it crops in right from the side. Now another hot key is shift and alt. If I press shift and alt when I'm cropping, notice how it pulls in from the center of the image, and allows me to go into the center. Now you can't feel what I'm feeling here behind the computer obviously unless you're working right along with me, but that will not let me go outside of this central area. If I press control, or if I press alt actually, and click on one of the sides, without pressing shift, it crops in just from side to side equally, or top to bottom equally. So those are all hot keys. Anytime you're using any tool in Photoshop, you can't hurt it. Try pressing control when you use that tool. Try pressing alt when you use that tool. Try pressing control shift, I'm telling you, these hot keys are things that I've figured out just by doing that. Not by actually reading anything, or being told right there in Photoshop, it's all been trial and error. Let me press alt while I press this tool and see what it does. So, I'll press and hold shift while I drag this in from the top, to constrain those proportions. And there, I really like how this image just comes in from that lower corner and wraps around into the image, almost as if we've got ourselves a golden ratio type of look here. If I went a little bit tighter with this by pressing shift and alt, you can see how I'm really forcing that by doing something like that. Cycle that O key. Shift and O, to cycle that around. To get the viewer to kind of wrap in around that image. Let's just change that back to the rule of thirds. So I'm cropping specifically for composition here, I'm cropping to see exactly what my image is gonna look like when I just pull in, and I wanna keep those people over there on the left hand side just a little bit. And I would say compositionally, this image is better than what we had when we first started. It was taken with a wide angle lens. Now I know when I'm shooting with a wide angle lens, that it has its drawbacks. It's gonna give me everything, especially when it's super wide, like 10 millimeters, I'm gonna get everything. And I'm gonna have to be the one to decide how much needs to come off of that image. And for this photograph I would say that this one needs to come off, little bit, about right there. So if we look in our history palette here, notice how I'm going back and forth within our history palette. The history allows me to go back to the most open state of this image, allows me to go to any of the crops that I've done on this image as well, just by cycling back through there. But just note that if I were to go back to that open image, and then straighten this again, all of those other history states are gonna go away. And it's just gonna default right back to that. So if you go back in history and try to re-do history, you're starting over again. Maybe that's the downfall of us doing time travel, we'll see. So the next one, this would be where I'm cropping specifically for symmetry. And I wanna force the symmetry. So with an image like this, what I'm looking at here is I need to use my rulers and my guides. So there's a hot key, it's command or control R. Command or control R is gonna open up rulers on the top and the bottom of our image. Now, I really don't care to see how many inches my image is, but what this does allow me to do is it allows me to pull in guides. And guides are awesome and they're your best friend when it comes to cropping. So if I click and hold somewhere within this ruler, and drag this down, that is gonna be a guide for me to show me what is straight in the image. If I bring this down to height, put it right here, I've got a guide that is cyan, that shows me what could possibly be straight in this image. If I press V for the move tool, I can move these guides. Now these guides are temporary. If you printed this image you'd never see it. If you press command or control H, they disappear. H for hide, is what I'm assuming. Which I believe it is actually, if you go up to the view, control H is right there. The guide is considered an extra, command or control H will hide. Control H again will bring it back. I can bring in multiple guides. I can bring in another guide that comes right here. Another guide that comes in down here. I could come down to the bottom of this and bring a guide that comes in down here. Now, because this is so far away, that's actually the least important to me. What's important to me is actually what's happening down here at the bottom of this image. So I'm gonna bring a guide down, right to here. So I want the bottom of this image right here, the bottom corner of this to go right to the bottom corner of this. And I can do that if I press C for the crop tool, get my straighten image tool, I can click right here at the bottom of this, and if I drag it over watch what happens. It magnetizes to those guides. So I can magnetize right to that guide, right to that corner, and that's exactly where this would be considered straight. Now if I have content aware selected, it's gonna automatically fill in any of those areas on the outside. Let's just put it to the test and see what it's gonna do. Press enter to commit. And it didn't do a very good job. So if it doesn't do a very good job, you can just press control Z, or command Z to go back, and for this instance, I probably wouldn't end up using that content aware because it didn't work out quite as well as I wanted it to. I'll just come here. Make sure that is unchecked. And when you uncheck it, notice how it automatically goes in and constrains itself to the image and where it can actually crop without showing you any transparency. You could manually do it by pulling in and pulling out on the handles on the sides, or you could just tell Photoshop to do it for you. So with this, I could also press shift and alt to really start forcing that perspective a little bit more in, and get just the edge of this, and just the edge of that there, and then maybe bring this up just a little bit. Again, forcing that perspective of the viewer. If I press command or control H, there we go, this is actually the original of the composite one that we saw within the presentation, but here's the before, here's the after. It's forcing that perspective and the symmetry even a little bit more. So if I press command or control H to look at those guides again, I'm gonna go back here and press, back to my crop here. Control H looking at those guides, if I press V for the move tool, it does offset the back a little bit. But it's not enough for the viewer to really be too picky about. What's most important ended up happening in the front of the image, and not necessarily the back of the image. So here's another image where we are forcing our image for, we're cropping for composition as well. So if I press C for the crop tool, and then I press O for my overlays, actually I'm gonna make a selection here. Press O for my overlays. I'm gonna overlay this one to be more of the golden ratio. To really force the golden ratio look of this image. It's an image that I can actually do that pretty well with. If I press shift and alt, I can start forcing that in to wrap the viewer from the edge of the canvas up and around that tree, and then into that rock there that I find attractive. So we have before with our wider angle, cutting out some of the stuff that we just don't need in the image. It's not that important. If it's not adding value to the photograph, we shouldn't be afraid to crop it. And that's how I'd crop that in, just to get that look.