How to Crop your Image in Photoshop CC …


The Crop Tool allows you to crop to a portion of an image to enhance the subject matter, remove an unwanted object, and/or improve your composition.


Cropping your image in Photoshop is one of those rare functions that has both creative AND procedural aspects to it.  This blogpost is about the procedural – the “How-to”.   Once you fully understand the “How-to”, the creative aspect is yours to discover & explore as a photographer.


Where to Find:


The Crop Tool can be found in the Tools Panel, or by pressing its Speed Key, which is “C”.


Crop Handles / Crop Box / Aspect Ratio:


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•  When the Crop Tool is chosen: notice the ”Crop Handles” at
the four corners of the image, as well as one on each side, creating a “Crop Box”(the area being cropped). If there’s no defined crop size, then the “Crop Box” starts on the outside edge of the image – see diagram.


•  Click on a ”Crop Handle”, hold the mouse button down and drag the handles to the desired shape. A “grid” will appear. When a constrained crop size is chosen, such as an 8×10, the Aspect Ratio remains the same, no matter which handle you drag and move.


•  Notice that the mouse cursor changes to a double-headed arrow as it’s hovered over any handle – you’re now ready to click, hold and drag to create the “Crop Box” – see diagram.


•  In addition, hovering anywhere slightly outside the “Crop Box” will change the cursor to a 90-degree double-sided arrow – now you can easily rotate the cropped area by clicking and dragging – see diagram.


•  To create a “free-from” crop, click and hold inside the current “Crop Box”.  Drag up or down to a diagonal opposite from where you started, such as Top Left to Bottom Right, and so on. Release the mouse button. This creates a new “Crop Box”.   Be careful with this – the final cropped version may be a different “ppi” than the Master File!


Moving the Image in the Crop Box:


To move the image inside the “Crop Box”:

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•  Click in the “Crop Box”, then quickly release the mouse button – a “grid” will appear – see diagram.


•  Click again & hold this time. Move to the desired location.  Notice that the image moves, not the “Crop Box”.


•  For “fine-tuning” (with the “grid” still showing), hold down the “Option” key (“Alt” on a PC), then use the “Arrow” Keys on the keyboard for minute movements.


What’s in the Options Bar?


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•  “Presets” Drop-down Menu: this gives you a series of preset crop sizes.  In the spirit of K.IS.S., I rarely use this menu – but it would be handy if you need to create your own custom crop presets.


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•  “Aspect Ratio” Drop-down Menu: These are presets for some popular aspect ratios in photography. The aspect ratio of an image is the ratio of its width to its height – for instance, a typical DSLR camera has an aspect ratio of 3:2, an 8×10 print is 4:5, and so on.


Again, in the spirit of K.IS.S., I rarely use these presets – preferring to manually enter the values for “Width”, “Height”, & “Resolution”.  For ultimate creativity in cropping, I prefer not to be limited by a fixed aspect ratio – unless a particular final print size calls for it.


To enter the values manually, select “W x H x Resolution”  in the menu (as shown) – this is my preferred method.


•  Swap Height & Width: switch the width and height values by clicking here – this is handy if you’re deciding between a horizontal and a vertical crop, or you entered the values in the incorrect order (guilty!).


•  Clear: when clicked, this clears the “Width”, “Height”, & “Resolution” values – it’s rarely used.


•  Straighten: See Chapter 39 in my Photoshop book (or Photoshop Help) on how to straighten the horizon (or a vertical!) easily.


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•  “View / Overlay” Drop-down Menu:  Here’s an easy way to judge the crop properly with an overlay.  By default, the overlay is the “Rule of Thirds” (see sample image below) – check out the other views.  If you need to remove the overlay, just click on “Never Show Overlay”.


•  “Options / Crop Shield” Drop-down Menu: I never check the “Use Classic Mode” – it’s outdated and slow. But I do use the “Crop Shield” quite a bit.  It helps to visualize what the final crop will look like before committing to it (see below).  See the image sample below for an example of the “Crop Shield” enabled with “50% Opacity”.  Feel free to play with the “Color” and “Opacity” options – I typically use “Match Canvas” at “75% Opacity”.


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•  Pixel Data: This determines if pixel data outside of the “Crop Box” is retained or deleted.  I’d leave this button “on”, as shown, which deletes the pixel data (it’s still in the Master File, if needed).


•  Reset:  Pressing this clears the “Crop Box”, “Image Rotation”, and “Aspect Ratio” settings – it’s rarely used.


•  Cancel: This COMPLETELY cancels the current crop operation, and you’ll lose all settings (the “ESC” Key does the same thing).


Commit:  Once you have EVERYTHING set the way you want it, pressing the “check” symbol commits to the current crop operation.


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•  Was this information helpful?

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•  By the way, this is just one chapter from my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂
























How (& why) I use Adobe Bridge …


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PLEASE NOTE: Due to an abundance of requests (especially since I’m not a big proponent of Lightroom), I submit the following post for your consideration …




Amongst the vast majority of photographers, the 2 most popular programs used in selecting, culling & identifying those awesome images deserving of a Master File (created in Photoshop) are Bridge & Lightroom.


When it comes to digital post-processing, I’m a YUGE advocate of the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple) method – – life is complicated enough, don’t ya think?


So, I use Bridge exclusively (rather than Lightroom), mainly for its sheer simplicity.  Even as a graphics professional, I don’t need (or want) the organizational power of Lightroom, nor the complexity & learning curve that comes with it.


•  For more info on the “why”, I’ve written a series of 3 blogposts discussing in-depth the ongoing “Photoshop vs Lightroom” saga – at your convenience (and rather than repeat myself!), start by checking out Part 1, called “Photoshop vs Lightroom?  Wrong Question!” (with links to Part 2 & 3):


So, continuing on– if you’re looking for SIMPLICITY in organizing & choosing those dynamite images destined for further work in Photoshop, read on …


What is “Bridge”?


Adobe Bridge is a stand-alone program that’s available with Photoshop CC and other Adobe Creative Cloud programs.  It allows you to organize, browse, locate, label, identify and cull / edit your image files.


In keeping with the spirit of K.I.S.S. (Keep It Super Simple), I’m going to cover the most useful features to a photographer.  Because Bridge is such a relatively simple program, It’s quite possible that you’ll be proficient with Bridge in no time after studying this post!


Where to Find:


As Bridge is a separate standalone program, you can open it without opening Photoshop, just like any “normal” program – I have an icon for it in my Mac OS  “Dock”.  But if you want to – –


•  From within Photoshop:  Go to “File” -> “Browse in Bridge…”

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Bridge Preferences:


To access Preferences (Bridge must be open):


 Menu: “Adobe Bridge 2020” -> “Preferences…” on a Mac, and Edit” -> “Preferences…” on a PC.

•  Or Speed Keys: “Command + K” on a Mac, Control + K on a PC.


Most items are best left at the default value at first, but here are some suggested changes:


Click to “Interface”:

•  Under “Appearance”, you can customize how your interface looks by choosing the background and accent colors., as well as the text size.


Click to “Thumbnails”:

•  Choose up to 4 lines of information to appear under the image Thumbnails, such as Image Size, Color Profile, Dimensions, Bit Depth, Date Created, and more.


Click to “Labels”:

•  You can customize your Label names as they appear in the “Filter” Panel.



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An Explanation of Some of the Features:
(see diagram above, mostly starting clockwise from upper-left)


•  Panels: Each Panel gives you different information (just like the Panels in Photoshop).  You can choose which Panels you want showing by going to the “Window” menu in Bridge.  Those that are showing will have a checkmark beside them.  Or, try the preset Workspaces (discussed below).  In addition, you can save your Workspace the same way you do for Photoshop, discussed in my Photoshop Book, available on Amazon.


The view shown above is the “Essentials” Workspace.  There are 10 Panels available, but I generally just use Favorites, Folders, Content, Preview, & Filter.


•  Content Panel: Here you can view the content of your computer/folders.  Right-click anywhere in this Panel to access the Sort sub-menu.  Here you can change the way Bridge sorts your images.  I have mine sorted in “Ascending Order” by “Filename”.


•  Rotate Image:  This gives you the ability to rotate the “Active” image (discussed below) 90 degrees either way.


•  File Path:  This shows the full “string” of the file path of the “Active” image (discussed below).


•  Preview:  This shows a preview of the “active” image (discussed below).  By the way, if you choose more than one image to be active (“Shift or Ctrl/Command” + mouse click), more than one preview will show up (see diagram below).


•  Trash Image:  This gives you the ability to permanently trash the active image(s) as you’re editing, but I rarely use it.


•  Filter Parameters / Labels:  As you’re editing, this gives you a way to separate your good images from your great images.  There are two parameters / labels that you can use to identify and separate your images:


1)  Rate with Stars – You’ll notice 5 dots underneath the active image(s) – – by clicking on these, you can add or subtract “stars” to rate the active image.  This is my favorite!



2)  Rate with Colored Labels – By right-mouse clicking on the active image, you’ll see lots of options: to change the color of the label, choose “Label”.


By the way, by going to the “Label” menu in Bridge, you’ll see various speed keys to organize your editing quickly – I use these all the time, and they’re really easy to learn, which speeds up the editing process.


•  Filter Panel:  This is handy if you want to show ONLY those files that are labeled, filtered, etc.


•  Thumbnail Size:  Move this slider to change the Thumbnail Size in the “Content” Panel.

•  Resize Workspace:  By dragging these vertical dividers, you can change the size / view of the overall Workspace.  Simply click on the area shown, hold the mouse button down, and drag.


•  “Active” Image:  The Active Image (or images) will be outlined in a different shade of gray than the other images – usually darker.


•  “View Menu” options:  Press the Space Bar on your keyboard to fill the image on your screen – click on your image, and it zooms in – press Space Bar again to exit.  To see more options, go to the ”View” menu in Bridge.


•  Workspace Options / Display Options:  This is one of the most useful features of Bridge.


 – By clicking on the Workspace Options buttons, and using the Display Options buttons at the bottom right, you can choose how you view, edit and preview your images.  The example of Bridge above is the “Essentials” view – the examples below are the “Filmstrip” and “Metadata” views.

– By the way, if you use the “Filmstrip” view, it’s quite handy to use the “Arrow” keys on your keyboard to move from one image to another, and use the Label speed keys for editing (see the “Labels” menu in Bridge).


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•  Was this information helpful?

Sign up for my free monthly newsletter here …


•  By the way, this is just one chapter from my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂



May 2021
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