How to Crop and Straighten an Image in Photoshop
One of the most common ways that many people want to edit their photos is by cropping them. Cropping an image is one of the most used Photoshop elements and serves an array of benefits and purposes. It focuses on your subject, removes unwanted background imagery, and resizes your photo to the ideal dimensions for those perfect social media posts.
Now before any hardcore photographers chime in, you should always TRY to get your ideal shot with your camera first so that you do not have to rely on editing afterward. It makes your life easier — and also makes you better at taking snapshots in the long run. It’s interesting to note that cropping is discouraged in many introductory and intermediate photography classes with the aim of getting photographers to think things through and minimize post-production editing. Shooting with the mindset of having to “get it right the first time” pushes people to create better photos, even without the need for equipment.
Last Updated January 2023
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But hey, we are not all professionals here! So, with all that said, there are still plenty of perfectly valid times where a bit of cropping makes an image stronger. Sometimes you can’t help but alter the scenery or angle when you have less than a minute to take the shot. Or maybe that perfect photo is just a bit crooked and needs to be straightened. Case in point: human error occurs, and Photoshop is here to save you.
And a little sidebar for all of you that care about pixels and resolution: although cropping makes an image smaller, the resolution will always remain the same as the original photo.
These are exactly the times where using the cropping tool can be your friend. Of course, this is just one of the many things that Photoshop can do. If you want to get a complete understanding of Photoshop’s tool options and capabilities, then you will definitely need to check out our blog tutorial How to Use Photoshop.
- Basic computer skills
- An image that you would like to crop or edit
- A Windows or Mac computer
- A copy of Photoshop or…
- Adobe Photoshop Creative Cloud (aka CC): If you don’t have Photoshop because it is too expensive, Adobe now offers the Creative Cloud that you can use with a monthly subscription instead.
- The GIMP: Another alternative that you might want to consider is the GIMP, which is a free alternative to Photoshop. It is not as popular as Photoshop, but you can learn how to do most of the things you would need for basic and advanced photo editing.
How to crop a photo in Photoshop
Step 1: Open your picture in Photoshop.
Here, we already have the picture that we’re going to crop in Photoshop. It’s zoomed out a bit here so that it is easier to see where we want to cut.
Your version of Photoshop might look a bit different from the screenshot shown, but that’s alright! The good thing about the cropping tool is that it works in all versions of Photoshop. That means that it is still accessible even without the latest version.
Note: Even if you have the same version like the one shown here, your workspace may look slightly different since the photo below is in a customized workspace. You can learn how to customize your Photoshop workspace, too, and get it to look and work the way you want.
Step 2: Click on the cropping tool
There are several ways to crop an image in Photoshop, but the absolute easiest method is with the cropping tool in the toolbar. You will usually see it on the left side of the screen, but you can also find it using the search bar. Alternatively, you can activate the tool with the in-application shortcut by pressing C on your keyboard.
Some more easy Photoshop shortcuts include:
- B: Brush
- C: Crop
- E: Eraser
- Space: Free move
- L: Lasso selection
- [: Decrease brush size
- ]: Increase brush size
- Shift+[: Make brush edges less soft/fuzzy
- Shift+]: Make brush edges more soft/fuzzy
- Number keys: brush transparency/opacity
- Command +/-: zoom in and out of your image
Step 3: Specify the size you want
The best thing about the crop tool is that it is entirely up to you. Want just a sliver cut out from the original size? Easy. Needing an entire section removed to hide that embarrassing background? Say no more.
To specify the size you want, keep the cropping tool still activated and drag the crop on the part of the picture that you want to keep.
Now, when cropping your image, you have a few tools and options. Maybe you have to crop an image but still need a specific height and width for a social media post. Or maybe dimensions don’t matter at all, and you just want that perfect-looking photo. Regardless of your size preference, Photoshop’s Crop Tool has the tools for you.
First, though, a quick PSA: Although cropping makes an image smaller, remember that the resolution will always remain the same as the original photo.
To begin, select the crop tool in the Tools panel, or just press C (the keyboard shortcut for cropping). You should immediately see the crop box over your selected image or layer.
If you are looking for a specific aspect ratio, you can easily change the dimensions of the crop at the uppermost toolbar. Use the attached photo below for reference.
In the dropdown bar, note that there are many options: you can select WxH (width and height) ratios predetermined PSIs (pixels per square inch, AKA the clarity of a photo), or – if you know the dimensions already – you can insert them manually. For this image, we are just going to select a manual option.
And what if you change your mind? You can do that too. Click clear to manually adjust the crop box yourself.
Now, when you are changing the size or dimension of your crop box, just select any of the four corners with your mouse. If using a specific crop dimension, remember that the dimension will always remain the same as you make the crop smaller or larger. If using a manual crop box, however, the width and height of the crop box will change with each corner selection. If doing a manual crop, just know it might take a bit more time to get the ideal shape + crop you are looking for.
Step 4: Move around the selection & crop!
Before deciding on your perfect crop, note that you can easily move the crop box in and around the original image by executing a simple click and drag it to your desired location. It’s that easy!
When the image is cropped to your liking, either click the checkmark at the top toolbar, or press enter on your keyboard.
And one last small but important reiteration: When using the crop tool, Photoshop will automatically crop areas outside the selected cropping area.
Step 5: Save your image.
If you’re satisfied, you can save your image and use it.
Congratulations! Now you know how to crop in Photoshop using the crop tool!
The newest crop tool… perspective crop
Introduced in Photoshop 15, the perspective crop tool is a really unique cropping tool that lets you crop and change the actual perspective of a photo. Now why in the world would someone need to use this? Two words: keystone distortion. In regular English, you would use the perspective crop tool if an image was photographed from an angle, and you want to change its perspective.
Aside from some minor differences, this tool is quite similar to the regular cropping tool and really easy to use!
With your photo already uploaded into photoshop, you’re going to type perspective crop into your search bar. To specify the size you want, keep the cropping tool still activated and draw a box on the part of the picture that you want to keep. You can either do a freeform rectangle or select a specific height and width, just like the regular cropping tool.
To change the perspective and angle of the photo, simply select and drag the corners.
Now, one of the most widely regarded uses for Perspective Crop is to straighten the angle of the image. For photographers, this happens all the time: you want a straight-on photo of a person or object, but the picture is just a tad off.
For the absolute best results at straightening your photo’s angle with Perspective Crop, you should try aligning the vertical edges of the rectangle with the vertical images of the picture. That way, this will give the impression that the original photo was taken straight-on.
There are other ways to crop images, too!
Think the crop tool is the only way to crop an image in Photoshop? Think again, my friends.
One such way to use an alternative tool yet still execute the perfect crop is the selection boundary.
To successfully crop using the selection boundary, find the rectangular marquee tool in your toolbar or search bar. Select the appropriate starting point to your ideal crop within your image, and drag to your desired endpoint. As a side note, you can easily move the rectangular marquee in and around the original image by clicking and then dragging it to your desired location — just like the crop tool! Select Image > Crop, save your image, and there you have it! Cropping made easy.
Additional benefits and tools found in the cropping tool:
Have you ever rotated a cropped image, only to be left with a transparent background or a white canvas that doesn’t match your initial background color? Yeah, it happens to the best of us. Well, with the amazing content-aware fill found in the cropping tool, you can rest easy knowing that rotated images can look perfect too!
Introduced in Photoshop CC 2015.5, this is an excellent tool if you are looking to rotate an image but maintain its background imagery and/or color. To execute the content-aware fill perfectly, go to the top of your toolbar and select the “crop” tool. In the options bar, click content-aware. After doing so, the original crop rectangle will automatically expand to include the entire selected image. Move the cursor outside of a corner of your desired crop location. A curved, double-pointed arrow will display. Rotate the image as you deem fit, then release the mouse. Click the checkmark or hit enter on your keyboard once the desired rotation is complete. And just like magic, the content-aware option will then fill the white space with content that matches the rest of the photo.
Straightening an image
Mistakes happen, especially when taking photos! For the perfect shot that is just a tad misaligned, straighten the image instantly in Photoshop’s Cropping tool. In the cropping toolbar above the image, select the straighten icon. With your cursor in the cropped rectangle, drag a line (either vertically or horizontally) across the photo.
Now, a word of caution: you don’t need to select the “line” tool or any other shape tool – rather, just draw the line as you deem necessary within the cropping tool itself.
The image will be cropped according to the angle of the line, while Photoshop will delete all sections outside the crop. Simply use the corner handles to move accordingly.
Press the checkmark or enter on your keyboard once you are satisfied with the crop, and the straighten tool has done its magic!
Note that at the top toolbar, there is a delete cropped pixels option. If unchecked, the image will be reduced in size, but the deleted sections will still be accessible.
To access these deleted sections at any time, simply select Image > Reveal All.
Grids, grids, and more grids
If you are looking to crop an image but need some additional help on perspective or straightening, be sure to take advantage of the cropping tool’s unique grid options. By clicking the grid-like icon at the top of your toolbar, Photoshop will give you a drop-down menu of options that will aid in your visualization. From a regular grid to the photographer-friendly rule of thirds gridlines — and even some more unique options such as a triangle or spiral — these grid lines are perfect for staying true to your preferred image geometry.
And don’t forget about the pen tool!
Need we remind you how versatile and amazing the Photoshop pen tool is? You can use it to create your own vector shapes, make custom selections, and yes, even cut and crop an image. Here’s a great summary of all the things you can do with the Photoshop pen tool that will turn you into a Photoshop wizard in no time.
If you’re looking for more quick tutorials, we have you covered with blogs that show you how to remove the background from an image, resize a layer, and outline text in Photoshop. When you’re ready to do a deep dive, be sure to take a look at some of the Photoshop courses that Udemy has to offer.
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