Understanding cropping

We take a look at different types of cropping and how the technique can be used both practically and creatively.

The procedure of cropping an image is carried out for several reasons, such as to prepare an image for print or to present an image in a particular aspect ratio. It’s also beneficial for redirecting an image’s focal point, removing potential distractions or tightening up compositions.

Cropping to fixed print sizes

You can crop directly to a fixed print size such as 6” x 4”, 7” x 5” or 10” x 8”. This means you can easily prepare cropped imagery which is sized ready for either standalone desktop printing or placement of exported high-resolution images into page layouts.

Cropping to aspect ratios

This is all about cropping to locked width and height proportions (not set measurements). Ratios such as 4:3 (used in SD TV and Apple iPads) offer a narrower crop width compared to a DSLR camera’s original 3:2 image aspect ratio, while a 16:9 ratio (HD TVs and modern desktop computer screens) gives a ‘widescreen’ crop, perhaps suitable for more landscape-related shots. For square crops, a custom 1:1 ratio is used for a balanced composition when centering the subject of interest in the middle of the crop area.

Reframing

This bleak industrial scene features a fair amount of night sky which takes focus away from the main subject matter, the industrial complex. By cropping, we produce a more intimate, vertically balanced result, focused on the centre building.

Removing wasted/unused space

With some images, you may find an excess of unused space in the composition that serves no purpose: it does not add any meaning or understanding to the image and distracts from the desired focal point. Cropping into the image to remove this space tightens up the composition enormously and results in a much stronger final result—a square crop was used in this example.

Golden ratio

Some images may benefit from being cropped to the “Golden ratio” (also known as divine or golden proportion), which traditionally is thought to yield a pleasing composition to the eye.

By cropping to this ratio using a spiral as a guide, we can give power and prominence to a part of the image. In this example, we align the centre of the spiral—the origin—and its “influence” grows outwards to follow the spiral into the remainder of the image.

Diagonal

Using diagonal guides for cropping works brilliantly for placing objects directly in the centre of a composition. Ensuring that the diagonal lines converge on key points of the objects also helps to strengthen the image.

Cropping and Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo’s Crop Tool is non-destructive and offers a wealth of cropping options.

You can crop to:

  • Fixed print sizes—This constrained crop gives control over the absolute size, in terms of physical unit type. Use Resample Mode and set a physical document unit, typically inches, before choosing an image DPI, followed by your physical print size (6”x4”, 7”x5”, etc.) by either via direct input or selection from a list of Presets.
  • Fixed aspect ratios—Another constrained crop, but Original Ratio and Custom Ratio Modes don’t resample your image on cropping, nor require a measurement unit to be set. The former mode retains the same aspect ratio of the opened image; the latter, any aspect ratio values entered manually or chosen from a list of Presets.
  • Absolute dimensions—For an unconstrained crop to previously chosen dimensions, use Unconstrained Mode using any unit (pixels, mm, cm, ft, yards, points); the document DPI is always used without resampling.

While cropping, you’ll also have supporting features to get the best crop results.

  • Straightening tool
  • Overlays: Rule of thirds, Golden spiral, Diagonals

Enjoy your cropping in both desktop and iPad versions of Affinity Photo!


Documentation manager
Andy manages our software documentation here at Serif and is our chief technical writer. In-between falling off his bike cycling into work, he keeps himself busy ensuring all our apps have up to date and accurate help content, and is editor-in-chief of our stunning Affinity Workbooks.
Credits & Footnotes

Images created by James Ritson.