How to Crop in Lightroom

how to crop in lightroom

Cropping is one of the most basic functions of any post production tool, yet it is one of the most complicated tasks to truly master. While there are many suggested guides and tools for effectively cropping a given image, knowing how to crop in Lightroom to make the perfect crop to your work as a wedding photographer can be very subjective.

How to Crop in Lightroom

Here at ShootDotEdit, not only do we provide photography post processing services for professional wedding photographers, we also aim to provide information to make these complicated processes easier. We’ve put together this guide for using the right tools and practices for Lightroom crop tools.

rainy couple portrait in front of barn

Image by ShootDotEdit Wedding Pro, Salt and Pine Photography

How to Crop Effectively in Lightroom

Just as there are many different perspectives when it comes to the best way to crop a photograph, there are many different reasons you would want to crop your photo from the original images. These range from very practical concerns to cropping effects designed to make the final photo even more unique. A great eye for cropping is important for any photographer and can be part of your signature style as an expert at capturing wedding memories.

Here are some of the reasons you might consider cropping your image:

    • Remove unwanted objects from the edges of your photographs. This is the most simple and common use of cropping. Cropping is a simpler method for cutting out objects and individuals who were not meant to be in the image in the first place, especially if they show up at the edges of your image. A good crop can remove them cleanly and with much less work than other removal options.
    • Drive more focus toward the subjects of your images. Too much background, or other elements in the background, in your image can distract from the main features of a wedding photo: the people. An effective crop in Lightroom can remove some of this noise and distraction, centering the focus on your photo’s main subjects.
    • Create a better general composition in your photo. It may be surprising, but there is actually a science to what makes an attractively composed image. By using layout grids such as the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Ratio, you can crop images in a way that is more visually compelling.
    • Build greater visual interest in your photo. Sometimes there is not a specific reason to crop a photo, but you can still use different cropping factors to make your original image more visually compelling. Slicing a photo in different ways can change the perspective, create more wonder, and naturally draw the eye to unique elements of an image, especially in wedding photography.

Steps to Crop in Lightroom

Before you can start using the more advanced tools to crop in Lightroom, you need to understand the basics of cropping your images on this platform. Here are 3 steps to help you understand how to crop in Lightroom.

1. Access the Crop Tool

Your files are already imported into Lightroom, so it all begins with the Crop tool, which creates a crop box around your photo.

lightroom crop settings

Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Dragging the edges of this box allows you to change its size, but not the proportions which are locked. To change the ratio of the image, you can unlock this feature and create a custom crop.

2. Create a Custom Crop

If you need a final image with specific proportions, you can automatically set your crop box to the dimensions that you need, then move or resize the crop box to get the desired effect.

select crop settings lightroom

Image by Brian Hatton Photography

You can also use one of Lightroom’s preset aspect ratios, such as 1 x 1 to create a square crop, but in most cases, you’ll want to make a custom aspect ratio for the best results.

3. Choose the Perfect Crop for Your Image

After you choose the size or aspect ratio for your cropped image, it is up to you to use the design tools in Lightroom (and your designer’s eye) to determine exactly how to crop in Lightroom for your specific image or photosets.

adjust drag image crop in lightroom

Image by Brian Hatton Photography

Fortunately, this software provides many built-in tools for creating a unique and effectively cropped image.

Different Methods

Depending on your skill level and familiarity with Lightroom, the approaches you can take to cropping in Lightroom vary greatly. The methods that will work best will also depend on the specific image you are cropping and the ultimate effect that you want to create.


Jared Platt's Lightroom Tips

  • Cropping with the Rule of Thirds. If you’ve been in photography for any length of time, you have probably heard of the Rule of Thirds. The basic concept to remember is that an off-center subject is more visually interesting. You can use the Rule of Thirds grid in Lightroom to crop your photo so that the main subject is off to the side and appropriately balanced by emptier background space. This keeps the focus of the entire image moving towards the subject or subjects.
  • Leveling a Photo through Cropping in Lightroom. Cropping can also be used to address specific composition issues in a photo, such as an image being slightly crooked. To straighten or level an image by cropping, create your crop box then use the angle slider or corner rotation feature to turn the image until the edges line up with the edges of the crop box. If your photo includes a building or other elements with very distinct horizontal lines, these can be used to automatically level your entire photograph.
  • Additional Tips for Cropping Photos in Lightroom. There are several other more general tactics for producing great crops within Adobe Lightroom. One is to dim the screen so that you get an even clearer view of how the photo will look when cropped. By dimming the rest of your screen, you will be able to better focus on the composition you are creating. You can also zoom out on your workspace to determine if the crop you are contemplating works on a smaller scale.

Effectively knowing how to crop in Lightroom seems simple in concept, but is far more complicated in practice. Even more than other tasks, cropping requires you to develop an eye for effective composition. This guide serves as a starting point on your journey to eye-catching, cropped wedding photographs – but if you need more support in this or other elements of post-processing, ShootDotEdit is here to help.

And for even more on how to use Lightroom to create a fast and efficient post-wedding workflow, access our Online Training: Advanced Lightroom Skillsets with expert, Jared Platt. Throughout the Online Training, Jared focuses on how to maximize your time in Lightroom and much more! Click the banner below to watch the Online Training and learn from the Lightroom Guru himself!

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