Resizing, realigning and recomposing

Welcome to another edition in our ‘Essential Image Editing Tools’ series. In this article we will cover the crop tool. As we have done in our previous articles we will be using Adobe Photoshop as our image editing software of choice.

The crop tool is fantastic for non-destructively resizing and realigning images, ultimately allowing you to easily recompose your image. In our before and after example below you’ll see that we have cropped a large area of our original image out, reframing the canvas to focus more on the subject.

Crop before & after

The crop tool

According to adobe: “Cropping is the process of removing portions of a photo to create focus or strengthen the composition. Use the Crop tool to crop and straighten photos in Photoshop. The Crop tool is non-destructive, and you can choose to retain the cropped pixels to optimize the crop boundaries later. The Crop tool also provides intuitive methods to straighten a photo while cropping.”

The crop tool should be located in the toolbar down the left hand side of your Photoshop window, as shown in the following screen shot.

Crop tool

Once selected you will be presented with the crop toolbar along the top of your photoshop window, shown in the screen cut out below. This provides a range of operations and options for controlling the crop tool, which we now explain. The blue numbers we have annotated in the image below correspond to the operations and options sectioned out below.

Crop Tool Bar

Crop handles

Crop handles

Once selected, the crop tool will place a crop box / area over your image. This controls which pixels will be cropped out and can be positioned and resized using the handles at the corners and sides.

1. Crop size / aspect ratio

Crop size / aspect ratio

The ratio tool allows you set the crop box to custom or preset ratios and sizes. Useful say if your intention is to print a 4:6 landscape photograph.

Crop box / area

Crop box / area

The area to be cropped will appear darkened out around your crop box. The image above demonstrates how the areas left and right of the portrait preset will be cropped.

Swap height and width

Swap height and width

You can use the swap height and width tool to easily flip the ratio between portrait and landscape.

Crop resize

Crop resize

You can resize the crop box by clicking and dragging the handles at the corners and sides. If you hold down the shift key whilst doing this, the aspect ratio will be maintained.

2. Straighten


The straighten tool allows you to click and drag a line across something that should be straight in your picture, say a horizon.

Straighten result

Straighten result

Your image will then rotate to align horizontally with the line you drew. Rotation can also be achieved by clicking just outside the crop box corners and shifting it round left or right.

3. Grid overlay

Grid overlay

The grid overlay options allow you to set what type of grid appears within the crop box. These are intended to aid you in your composition, for example the ‘Rule of Thirds’.

4. Additional crop options

Additional crop options

The additional crop options allow you to personalise the crop tool further, offering options that you may find improve the process of cropping. We find the default settings do the job just fine!

5. Delete cropped pixels

Delete cropped pixels

This option allows you control if the cropped pixels are deleted or not. Leaving this unchecked is usually the better option as it will allow you to revert your cropped area if you decide later that you want adjust it.



Selecting this option will mean that photoshop tries to cleverly fill any spaces created by cropping or rotating. If you uncheck this then the crop box will be confined to the boundaries of your image.

You should hopefully now have a better understanding of the crop tool and its potential for resizing and recomposing images. Keep an eye on our blog section to see what tool we cover next in this series!