Every Photo Needs To Be Cropped. How to Crop.
As I discussed in my last post, every digital photo needs to be cropped (“Why Crop?”). To crop a photo you need a photo editing program and there are many to choose from. Most likely, there was an editing program included in with your digital camera and most online print services offer some level of editing features. A simple fact is that most photo editing programs are too complicated and difficult to learn for most digital photographers whose primary interest is taking pictures and showing them to friends and family. You have to determine your level of interest and amount of time you have to devote to learning a photo editor and to edit photos.
From my perspective if you are willing to learn to use a comprehensive photo editing program I would recommend Photoshop Elements by Adobe. If you are not, I recommend CorrectPhoto by PictoColor (Admittedly, I am a bit prejudice regarding CorrectPhoto, but the choice is yours.) If you don’t want to spend money on a photo editing program you might want to consider using the Windows Photo Gallery editor included in Windows Vista or a free online service. I do believe, however, that photo editing is best done on your computer before images are uploaded to an online print or sharing service. I would also avoid using Photo Kiosks at retail stores to edit photos, but I will talk about that in a future post.
As I previously discussed (Photo Applications) before you crop you must decide what you are going to do with the photo. For this discussion I will assume you want to make a 4×6 print.
Adobe Photoshop Elements
If you are willing to learn a comprehensive photo editing program Adobe Photoshop Elements is an excellent choice. It is a great photo editing and organizing application from the gold standard photo application software company, Adobe. The current version for Windows is 7.0 and for the Mac it is 6.0. I use Elements for some of the more complicated editing tasks such as combining two images or when I need to airbrush a photo, but I find it a bit complicated and time consuming for the basic editing functions. And, like most photo editing and organizing applications, Elements likes to take over your computer for all photo applications unless you set your preferences to avoid this aggravation. The list price of Photoshop Elements is $99.95.
Cropping a photo in Elements is not that complicated when you know where the cropping tool and settings are located.
- After you open an image file locate and click on the cropping tool on the left vertical tool bar (10th icon from the top).
- When the crop tool is selected a second menu appears under the top menu bar. Click on the little arrow next to the Aspect Ratio and select the 4x6in cropping format.
- Move the “cropping cursor” to select the area you want in the 4×6 print. This is a little awkward at first, but you will get the hang of it quickly. Elements uses a highlighted technique to identify the cropped area. When you are satisfied with the cropped area click on the green check market at the bottom of the area or hit Enter or Return and the cropped image will appear in the work area.
- You may either save the cropped image or do additional editing, such as color correction. We will talk more about color correction in a future post; however, on this example I used a plug-in called iCorrect OneClick. The final image is shown below.
- When you go to Save the corrected photo Elements will default to the .psd Photoshop file type. This may be okay if you are going to do more editing in Elements but, I recommend you save it in the jpg format and select the highest quality level. Then you will be ready to upload it to an online print service or take a CD to the photo store for prints.
Note: The resolution or pixel count will be less than the original when you crop in Elements. In this example the original file size was 2592×1944 and the cropped image is 2255×1503. So, when you use Elements to crop a photo you want to be careful not to crop too much out of the image or the print will not be very sharp. This is the case of virtually all photo editing applications with the exception of CorrectPhoto which we will discuss next.
CorrectPhoto by PictoColor
CorrectPhotowas developed for digital photographers who are either not interested or have little time to learn a complicated photo editing program. It includes the basic editing functions: rotation, crop to fit, resize, one click color correction, red eye removal and sharpening. And, there is virtually no learning curve and you can crop and color correct a photo in seconds. I use it for over 90% of the photo editing I do for both personal use and for our websites and this blog. It is a Windows program only, so you Mac folks will have to learn Elements or buy a PC. (Right!) The price for CorrectPhoto is $39.95.
CorrectPhoto has a built in Windows Explorer so when you open the program the My Pictures or Pictures folder will appear on the left. Select the folder with the photos you want to edit and click on the image and it will appear in the editing area.
- With the selected photo in the work area click on the cropping icon and then select the 4×6 Landscape cropping format and a 4×6 cropping area will appear.
- Move the corners and sides with the cursor to select the area you want to keep. You can move the crop window by positioning the cursor anywhere within the crop window. When finished click the Apply button.
- To color correct the image simply click on something white, black or grey (I clicked on the white shirt of the boss with the hat.) and you are finished cropping and color correcting the photo.
CorrectPhoto also has a Before/After viewing mode that lets you compare the edited photo with the original side by side.
Note: The resolution of the final image is same as the original in the long dimension because of a unique AutoRez feature in CorrectPhoto. The resolution of the original photo was 2592×1944 and the CorrectPhoto edited photo is 2592×1733. To my knowledge CorrectPhoto is the only photo editing program with this feature and the cropped prints are as sharp as an un-cropped photo.
Here is the edited photo. Since I used iCorrect OneClick color correction plug-in in Photoshop Elements and CorrectPhoto employs OneClick Color the resultant cropped and color corrected photo looks the same. The only difference is that the CorrectPhoto edited photo is a higher resolution image because of the AutoRez feature in CorrectPhoto.
Microsoft Windows Photo Gallery Editor
If you have a Windows Vista machine you might want to at least look at the editing functions within Windows Photo Gallery. After all it is free, but then you get what you pay for. When you select an image click on the Fix icon on the menu bar and the editing functions will appear on the right. Select Crop Picture and then the 4×6 Proportion (Crop Format) and the crop window will appear over the image. Cropping is about all I would suggest using the editor for. The Auto Color really doesn’t work very well and when you start playing around with the color controls (Color Temperature, Tint, and Saturation) you can quickly screw up the photo color. Microsoft’s idea of workflow is to write over the original when you apply the edits and blocks access the “Save As” function to easily put the corrected file in another folder. You can Copy the corrected file to another location, a bit inconvenient in my opinion. And, when you apply the edit it will over write the original file anyway. The editor does remember the edits and you can restore the photo to the original, but I would rather go back to the original in the archive file if I wanted to make changes.
As I said at the start, there are many alternative programs and online services to choose from when it comes to editing photos. In my opinion, the best options to consider are Adobe Photoshop Elements and PictoColor CorrectPhoto. Microsoft’s Photo Gallery Editoris something to look at if you have Vista and maybe use it once in a while for a quick crop or sending an image via email, but it really isn’t a serious photo editor. So, it depends on how much time you want to invest in learning a photo editor and in actually editing photos as to which would be better for you. As I said, I use both, but 90+% of what I, and I suspect most of you, need to do is simply crop and color correct and for that, CorrectPhoto, is the best choice.
In future post I will discuss other photo editing tasks, including color correction, re-sizing, sharpening and red eye removal.