Cropping Images: The Basics

There is a certain workflow that has been proven to work best for highlighting what is good in a photo and diminishing what might be not so good. Here’s the “secret” formula.

  1. Crop, straighten and resize.
  2. Correct any lighting issues (shadows, highlights, midtones).
  3. Eliminate any possible color casts.
  4. Adjust saturation if necessary.
  5. Apply any special effects (if desired)
  6. Apply sharpen.

This tutorial is written for both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements users.

Where to find the Crop Tool:

Whether you are in Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, pressing the “C” on your keyboard will activate the Crop Tool.  This keyboard shortcut is a great time-saver, but if you forget it, you can also access the Crop Tool in the Tool Bar.

Photoshop Elements Options: (I am using PSE 2018).

Photoshop Elements offers Crop Suggestions for you, in the form of 4 thumbnails. Hover your mouse over each suggestion to see that option reflected on your image. If you like one, click on the green checkmark to commit the crop. If you don’t like any of them you have the option to make your own cropping decisions. (Image 1 below).

  • Access cropping options, by clicking on the down-pointing arrow in the options box.
    • No Restriction will allow you to crop your image any way you like.  (Image 1 below).
    • Using Photo Ratio will retain the original photo aspect ratio.
    • There are also preset sizes you may choose from. (Image 2 below).
  • You may enter an exact width and height in the options box. By clicking the 2 blue arrows between the width and height options, you can reverse the specified dimensions.
  • When you crop an image, the resolution will stay the same unless you specify otherwise, in the Resolution box.
  • Grid Overlays are available to help you frame your image for the best results. You have the options of:  None, Rule of Thirds, Grid.  In the image below, I have clicked on the Rules of Thirds, and with the Crop Tool selected, have drawn out a shape on my photo.  I can use the corner handles to make the shape larger or smaller, or I can left-click and hold inside the shape, and move the suggested crop shape around.  (Image 3 below).
  • Once you are happy with your image, click the green checkmark to commit the Crop, or hit Enter to do the same thing. If you don’t like what you have done, click the Cancel icon and try again.


Image 1
Image 2
Image 3

Photoshop Options (I am using Photoshop CC2018):

  • In the far right options box, we can select the image ratio we would like to use. Presets are accessed by clicking on the down-pointing arrow. (Image 1 below)
  • We can also enter specific dimensions in the boxes to the right of the Ratio option. Clicking on the black arrows between those dimensions will reverse them.
  • Select the type of Grid you would like to use in the drop-down Grid box. The grid you have chosen will appear on your image as you start to draw out your cropping shape. (Image 2 below.)
  • Drag out the corner handles to change the shape of your cropping area if desired.
  • Left-click and hold the mouse, and you will be able to move your image around to the desired area. (Unlike with PSE, where your shape is what moves.)
  • If you are “free cropping,” press and hold the Shift key while dragging to keep your cropped shape proportional.
Image 1
Image 2

There is a lot to learn about cropping, but I hope these basics will help you get the image sizes you need / want.


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Comments (6)

  1. Superb! I love this workflow, and the way the subject “focuses” now., Excellent Tutorial, Karen. Thank you SO MUCH

    January 19, 2018 at 2:11 pm
  2. Lynda

    This is a GREAT IDEA (TIP) but (clueless ME survivor from an brain aneurysm 6 cm x 4.5 blew up) I’m not sure but I think cc2017 is available so it will work in this software… Lynda ;0)

    January 20, 2018 at 1:37 pm
  3. Elizabeth Ames

    can you make this available as a pdf?

    January 20, 2018 at 7:48 pm
    • Karen

      Yes, Elizabeth! I will do that, along with a YouTube video today!

      January 21, 2018 at 7:30 am
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