Photo Cropping in Lightroom

For me, photo cropping in Lightroom is one of the most important edits you can do to improve your images. I’ve wrote before about my editing process in Lightroom and also covered a little about black and white conversion. But in this short article, I want to talk about this most important part of post processing.
For me, this is the crop. Everyone seems to do this differently and I see many that do not crop at all. In my opinion, cropping is one stage of the editing process that we need to pay more attention to when working in Lightroom.

Photo cropping in Lightroom. Galway street musician by John Mee Photography

The original, un-edited uncropped image

I see many images that, in my opinion would have benefited hugely by utilising a different crop. I’ve even seen photographers delete images that could have been transformed by a simple and quick crop in post production.

It’s all very well saying that the images should be cropped in-camera at the time of pressing the shutter but there’s no reason why you cannot correct this afterwards. You should certainly pay close attention to it when composing your image through the viewfinder but sometimes, it simply not possible to get the crop right at the time of taking the picture.

Like this time! I was wandering around the streets of Galway recently while on a quick visit there. I had the Nikon 70-200mm F4 lens on my D800 camera with the intention of capturing some of the people on the streets. I had got a few nice shots when I spotted this street musician. He was playing some jazz and sounded pretty good actually.

Photo cropping in Lightroom. Lightroom crop tool

The Lightroom crop and rotate tool

I don’t know why, but he reminded me of some sixties type character, so I processed the image with a summery, nostalgic feel to it. Although I was zoomed into 200mm, I still felt it wasn’t close enough. However, I didn’t want to distract him by moving any closer, so at the time I decided that I would be cropping in very tight in post for the final shot.

What were my reasons for this? Well, I viewed the look of concentration on his face, the cigarette and the hands strumming and forming the chords as central to the shot. See all that extra space around him – that’s unimportant and distracting. It serves no purpose.  I didn’t need his entire head of hair or his jeans in the photo – what purpose did they serve?

So, back home in Adobe Lightroom, I cropped in tight on him. You’ll also see that I rotated the photo quite a lot. I felt that this was a more pleasing angle and the elements that I wanted in the shot were better balanced. This is something else you may want to experiment with when cropping.

Photo cropping in Lightroom. Lightroom virtual copies screenshot

Screenshot showing Lightroom virtual copies

The last screenshot here shows some of the edits I done along the right hand side. You can also see at the bottom that I have created a few virtual copies (right-click the thumbnail and select “Create Virtual Copy’) I use this method quite often. It allows you to create multiple edits of the one photograph. This way you can compare them side by side and decide which edit works best.

There’s lots more you can do with cropping but this article is just a quick primer. I’ll be covering much more in a future article and indeed we cover this topic on my landscape workshops.
Feel free to leave your cropping tips and opinions in the comments and thanks for reading this far. Pop along to my Facebook page if you want to see more of my photos or have a browse through my online shop.

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2 Comments

  1. Rob Reply

    Due to Instagram I seem to crop EVERYTHING into squares! It’s a habit I’m trying to get out of.

    I like the use of rotate too. I don’t think enough people use that in any of the apps and software available. Everyone tries to take pics on a straight edge, if they fail they don’t straighten. Not people say “you know what? That’d look better at a different angle!” Even if I end posting stuff with defined lines I still take a look at it rotated.

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