Lightroom Tips

Friday Tip – Cropping the cool way

Time for the Friday tip again. Scroll down to the next paragraph to read it. Keep reading here if you live anywhere near the Philadelphia area and can get some time off next Tuesday morning (June 3). If so, I’ll be teaching a free class on Photoshop CS3 sponsored by Adobe and CDW. There’s actually some other Creative Suite stuff being taught during the day but my part is in the morning. Anyway, it is indeed free and all you have to do is sign up here.

Now for the tip. I named this post, Cropping the Cool Way because there’s a really neat tip for cropping. Try this. Next time you’re going to crop a photo, you’ll obviously go into Crop mode (just press the R key). Then you drag around the handles to get your crop just right. One of the problems is that you still see the non-cropped areas of your photo (albeit in a darkened state) and some people find that distracting. If you’re among the distracted type try pressing the L key twice (one for Lights Dim mode and once for Lights Out mode). This blacks everything but the photo and the crop handles. This way you can crop in a totally black area and you’re always seeing exactly what your photo will look like after the crop. Take care and if you do stop by the event in Philly on Tuesday make sure you come up and say hi tell me how much you like the Lightroom blog/podcast 😉



  1. Jeff Davis 10 February, 2009 at 00:41 Reply

    Is there a way to crop in lightroom that would function like using crtl A ctrl T in Photoshop and hold ctrl and being able to pull the corners etc?. Just started using LR and like it so far but this is a technique I use a lot in an effort to compensate for curved lines in architecture photos. Thanks for all of your presets and other tips by the way.

  2. Andreas Hitzig 7 September, 2008 at 15:09 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    thanks for this tip. Very usefull.

    I’ve another question regarding croping. The size of my images is usually 3008 x 2000 pixels. Many times I would like to select a range of 1920 x 1200 pixels and use it as a desktop image, but I can’t find an easy way, how to select a range of that particular size with LR. I thought that I might be able to specify somewhere the exact size of the crop rectangle and then move this rectangle around on the original image and make my selection, but this seems not to be possible.

    Any good tip ?

    Best regards from Switzerland

  3. Irene Strowe 2 July, 2008 at 02:48 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    And anyone trolling the old comments. The answer to the drop shadow difference is that the drop shadow does not show while in Lightroom, only in the browser. So my results were the same as Matt’s when finished.


  4. Ali M. 1 July, 2008 at 16:19 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    Question about the crop tool…

    I can’t seem to figure out if I can enter the exact pixel size I want for cropping. A lot of times I want to make sure that I don’t crop a photo smaller than a certain size (let’s say I don’t want it to end up smaller than 4 Mpix)… LR doesn’t display the size as you crop, nor does it let you enter a pixel size for the new size… is there a way to do this?

    Thanks for your help!

  5. Ted 3 June, 2008 at 09:34 Reply

    Th@nks Matt. This is a wise lesson for the next time. I also think it might have been the hdd that acts a bit funny lately. I just start from scratch.

  6. mattk 3 June, 2008 at 06:29 Reply

    Hi Irene,
    I actually didn’t do anything. There’s a setting under the Appearance panel called “Add Drop Shadow to Photos”. I just turned it on and that’s what I got.


  7. Irene 3 June, 2008 at 05:37 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for your reassurance. I did update LR. So far it looks like CS2 with CR Plug-in Ver 3.7 is co-existing with Lightroom 1.4.1 with CR 4.4.1

    I need the CS2 and Camera Raw to work since I make panoramas that are too wide for Lightroom.

    I am still curious about the drop shadow in the Web preset you created with Kuler (May 6). Mine just do not look that nice and gradual and smooth. Care to share with us what is going on?


  8. mattk 2 June, 2008 at 07:56 Reply

    Irene – CS2 and Lightroom will play just fine together. You shouldn’t have to worry about conflicts because you really shouldn’t be opening any Lightroom-managed files with Camera Raw anyway. You should always be developing them in Lightroom. They’d open just fine anyway though.

    Ted – I hate to tell ya, but it sounds like you may need to start over again. If you don’t have a backup of your catalog file then there’s not much more you can do but reimport. (Sorry).


  9. Claas 2 June, 2008 at 02:47 Reply

    cropping & grids…

    I don’t know if you have covered this feature before. In case you didn’t, here is a tip I’ve found on

    When you crop a picture, LR shows a 3×3 grid. When you straighten a photo a finer grid is shown. This grid along with others is also accessible by hitting the letter “o” while in crop mode.

    Select a photo. Hit “r” to bring up the crop tool. Hit the letter “o” to toggle through the differnet grids: rectangular grids of different proportions, diagonal grids and a divine-proportion-spiral. You will find that “shift-o” will rotate the spiral.

    Thank you for your useful and entertaining blog

  10. Jamie Brown 1 June, 2008 at 22:33 Reply


    I’ve learn a lot from watching/reading your tips. This is the Best place to learn how to get the most out of lightroom.

    I would like to learn is how to crop a bunch a photos to the same ratio as you move through Develop. You always have to go back and select the the ratio again. LR doesn’t remember the crop ratio from the previous picture.

    Maybe you can create this tip in the future.

    Thanks for putting the time into a great website.

  11. Steeve 1 June, 2008 at 15:27 Reply

    “Take care and if you do stop by the event in Philly on Tuesday make sure you come up and say hi tell me how much you like the Lightroom blog/podcast”

    I won’t be there since it’s really far from home, but I can say that I like the Lightroom blog anyway! 😛

    Good job!

  12. Ted 1 June, 2008 at 09:44 Reply

    Hi Matt,

    First i must say that your presets are REALLY GOOD!
    But i had some sort of a dilemma last week and maybe you have a solution for this,
    The lightroom catalog failed /Damaged and now i am not able to
    get all my photo’s (9000) with the presets back and have to start again
    from scratch.Is there any other solution for this than re-import all the
    9000 photo’s,Is there a way to start a new catalog from time to time?



  13. Irene Strowe 1 June, 2008 at 07:30 Reply

    Hi Kiran,

    I appreciate your comments; however, I am talking about CS2 and the following which is taken from the Adobe web site:

    “Note that the 4.x versions of the Camera Raw Plug-in are only compatible with Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop Elements 4.01 (Mac) or 5.0 (Windows) and later.”

    So what happens to us users of CS2? We need to keep our version of Camera Raw and would not want any program – Lightroom or otherwise to make an update that would leave our CS2 application without a Raw converter.

    Still looking for answers before I upgrade to LR 1.4.

  14. Kiran 1 June, 2008 at 00:03 Reply


    I have CS3 installed and it originally came with Camera Raw 4.3 or something like that. When I installed Lightroom 1.4, it came with Camera Raw 4.4. I just went to Adobe’s website and updated the CS3’s CR to 4.4. Nothing ever gave me a conflict, but I just realized that whenever I opened up my RAW files from my sony alpha, CS3 wouldn’t open it, but LR did. So, you don’t need to worry about any conflicts. CR seems to be independent of application from my usage experience.

  15. C. Diane 31 May, 2008 at 20:27 Reply

    Good tip Matt. That’s cool and I just did the click R and also the L for the light mode. I never thought about this. Am still learning more stuff from you, Matt.
    Keep giving us more tips!!!! ::::)))))

  16. Irene Strowe 31 May, 2008 at 19:11 Reply

    Hi Matt,
    Nice tip for those that find the cropping too distracting.

    Back to your May 6 post – re: kuler. Your example that you created was very nice but I can find no way to make the nice drop shadow that shows on your example. In the LR Web module, when I choose the add drop shadows option, all I get is a rather ugly black line instead of the nice smooth shadow. (I am not talking about the black photo borders)

    What am I missing? And maybe others might like to know how you did that drop shadow too. I am still using version 1.3.1, is that the difference?

    And that is another question too: Do wet get into conflicts with Photoshop CS2 and it’s older camera raw version if we upgrade to LR 1.4 and it’s new camera raw version. Not all of us can afford CS3 and always upgrading. I am confused about all the versions of all these products.

    I enjoy most of your tips. Thanks for doing it.

  17. Kiran 31 May, 2008 at 12:22 Reply


    As far as the conference goes, is it open for non-professionals or is it strictly for professionals?

  18. Mario 31 May, 2008 at 07:37 Reply

    to Gav

    in the cropping panel there is this lock symbol, clicking on it opens/closes the cropping aspect lock. so unlock that lock and you have free cropping

  19. Seim Effects 30 May, 2008 at 20:43 Reply

    Cool matt I’ll have to try that. Another thing that bothers me about the crop is cropping a custom aspect ration. Instead of just free cropping you have to enter a size it seems. Thai is a bit annoying.

    Oh well, future fix…


  20. Leon Kendrick 30 May, 2008 at 16:52 Reply


    Very nice tip. I will probably use this from this point forward. An urelated question. On this week’s episode of PSTV, you showed a tip on how to enlarge a canvas. I believe you stated there was a link on the NAPP sight for a tutorial on how to perform this task with an action.

    I’ve looked all over the site and could not find the link. I’m sure I’ve somehow managed to overlook it somehow. Any help in finding the tutorial will be appreciated.



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