Understanding Photoshop is a biweekly column that takes an in-depth look at how digital photographs are built and manipulated. It is a college-level course in plain English for free at Photofocus. To learn more see this article.

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The Content-Aware scaling feature is a way to intelligently scale an image that allows for certain details to be preserved while others are distorted. It can be used to recompose an image. When used correctly, the image will automatically adapt to preserve vital areas during the scale.

1. Open the image Content_Aware_Scale.psd.

Fig 04_25_CAS1

2. Select the layer called Headshot. The photo is not big enough to fill the entire canvas and needs to be resized.

3. Choose Edit > Content-Aware Scale.

4. In the Options bar, make sure the Protect Skin Tones button is pressed to tell Photoshop to attempt to preserve regions that contain skin tones.

Fig 04_26_CAS2

5. Drag a resize handle on the bounding box to scale the image. Hold down the Shift key to scale proportionately. You can also hold down the Option (Alt) key to scale from the center of the image.

6. Size the image so it fits the width of the canvas. Notice that the face shows little to no distortion, but the background has been changed significantly.

Fig 04_27_CAS3

7. Click the Commit button or press the Return (Enter) key to apply the change.