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Using the Geometry Tools (Crop, Rotate, Straighten & Skew)

Adjust composition, aspect ratio, and straighten lines with the geometry tools.

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Where is it?

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What is Crop and why would you use it?

Crop refers to the size and shape of a photo or video. Every image is a crop of the world around us, and what is contained in that crop largely determines the impact of the image. Composition is what you include in your frame, and how you include it.

It’s best to get your composition as close to your vision as possible at the time of capture, but for a variety of reasons it’s often useful to be able to re-adjust the crop of an image or video after it’s creation.

Changing the crop of an image can completely change its meaning and drive. By removing part of a scene, you can change the perceived context of a subject.

Sometimes distracting elements on the edge of a scene can be removed with a crop. Perhaps you’re exporting your image to publish or print it, and it has to fit into a certain shape. The crop tool can help with this as well.

Finally, compositional rules such as the rule of thirds can help create pleasing compositions, or jarring ones by breaking the rules.

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Here, we experiment with placing various scene elements on third lines. All of these are more more harmonious compositions than the original. None are wrong, they all simply change the focus and feeling the image slightly.

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Here we look at the various crops in their finished state. Notice how changes to the composition, and especially the negative space surrounding the subject change the feel of the image.

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Here we first bring the subject's face into the upper right third while preserving the negative space on the upper left that give the image a calmer mood. Next, we crop in very close and remove the negative space, which creates a more dynamic, but less calm mood.

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Here, the original has a distracting line of light at the top, and the subject's eyes are slightly above center. By placing the eyes on the upper third line, we also remove the line above and creating an overall more powerful image.

What is Rotatemceclip1.jpg & Straighten, and why would you use it?

These tools need little explanation, but it can be one of the most useful. They can obviously be used to correct photos that are sideways, but they can also be used expressively. Since horizontal and vertical lines portray stability and diagonal lines portray energy, you can change the feeling of your image by either straightening it, or adding some diagonal lines into your composition.

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Straightening this image may not be an improvement as the diagonal lines created a more dynamic composition.

What is Skew and why would you use it?

Skew adjusts perspective both horizontally and vertically. It’s mainly useful as a corrective tool when there are lines that should be straight. Architectural photography is a common candidate for this tool.

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Tips & Tricks:

1. Be careful when cropping, as the further you crop in the more your image is enlarged. Too much cropping can reveal noise and unwanted details in an image. Cropping in closer is exactly the same as digital zoom in the camera and the same blurry details effect can happen if you crop in too closely.

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2. Not every image needs to be straightened; sometimes off-straight lines benefit an image. You can also use the straighten tool to un-straighten images to give them more energy (though, do this carefully as it can also be a cheap trick that doesn't actually contribute to the image)

3. Be careful when using the skew tool on images with people in them, as unnatural looking proportions can be created easily that are especially noticeable on portraits.