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Cropping Photos

After you've sorted your images in Adobe Bridge, one of the first editing tasks you'll probably undertake is cropping a photo. There are a number of different ways to crop a photo in Photoshop. We'll start with the basic garden-variety options, and then we'll look at some ways to make the task faster and easier. At the end of this project, I've added a new way to see your cropping that won fame when it was added to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, but I figured out an easy way to get the exact same cropping trick here in Photoshop CS3.

Step One

Press the letter C to get the Crop tool (you could always select it directly from the Toolbox, but I only recommend doing so if you're charging by the hour).

Step Two

Click within your photo and drag out a cropping border. The area to be cropped away will appear dimmed (shaded). You don't have to worry about getting your crop border right when you first drag it out, because you can edit the border by clicking-and-dragging the points that appear in each corner and at the center of each side.

Step Three

If you don't like seeing your photo with the cropped-away area appearing shaded (as in the previous step), you can toggle this shading feature off/on by pressing the Forward Slash (/) key on your keyboard. When you press the Forward Slash key, the border remains in place, but the shading is turned off (as seen here).

Step Four

While you have the cropping border in place, if you need to rotate your photo, you can do that as well (so basically, you're doing two things at the same time: cropping and rotating). You rotate the cropping border by just moving your cursor anywhere outside the border. When you do this, the cursor will change into a double-headed arrow. Just click, hold, and drag up (or down) and the cropping border will rotate in the direction you choose (as shown here).

Step Five

Once you have the cropping border right where you want it, press the Return (PC: Enter) key to crop your image. The final cropped image is shown here, where we cropped off the windows on the left (the daylight coming through them was drawing your attention over there, which we don't want), and we also cropped away a distracting pillow on the right side of the couch. You can see the uncropped image on the previous page.

Step Six

Another popular way to crop is to skip the Crop tool altogether and just use the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) to put a selection around the area of your photo you want to keep. You can reposition the selection by clicking inside the selected area and dragging. When your selection is positioned where you want it, go under the Image menu and choose Crop. The area outside your selection will be cropped away instantly. Press Command-D (PC: Ctrl-D) to Deselect.

Step Seven

Okay, are you ready for the ultimate cropping experience? (There's a sentence that's probably never been written before.) It's inspired by Lightroom's popular Lights Out full-screen cropping method. In Lights Out mode, as you crop, it surrounds your photo with solid black, so you see a live preview of what the final cropped photo will look like as you crop. It's pretty sweet, and once you try it, you won't want to crop any other way. Luckily, you can do the same thing here in Photoshop CS3. Start by taking the Crop tool and dragging it over part of your photo (it doesn't matter where or what size). In the Options Bar, there's an Opacity field, which lets you choose how light the area you're cropping away is going to display onscreen. Click on the right-facing triangle and increase the Opacity to 100%, so it's solid black (as shown here).

Step Eight

Now press the Esc key to remove your cropping border. Press Tab, then the letter F three times to hide all of Photoshop's panels and menus, plus this centers your photo onscreen surrounded by solid black (as seen here). That's it—you're in "Lights Out cropping mode" because you made any cropped-away area solid black, which matches the black full-screen area surrounding your photo. So, try it yourself—get the Crop tool again, drag out a cropping border, then drag any one of the cropping handles inward and you'll see what I mean. Pretty sweet, eh? When you're done cropping, press Return (PC: Enter), then press the letter F once more to leave full-screen mode, then press the Tab key to bring your panels, menus, and Toolbox back.

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