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Using Cropping Overlays in Lightroom

cover225x225Note: This post is from our book Develop Great Images in Lightroom (available on iBookstore & Scribd).

Lightroom offers several different overlays to help with composing your crop. There is no right way to crop, after all the goals can be the removal of distractions, the changing of emotion, or technical requirement. But overlays are designed to help with all of these.

Available Ratios

  • Grid: The grid overlay works quite well for architectural images. The horizontal and vertical lines can help with edges as well as straightening an image. This option will pop-up whenever you rotate an image as well.
  • Thirds: The Rule of Thirds grid is commonly used to compose balance. Most commonly, a subject is placed at one of the intersection points of the grid.
  • Diagonal: The Diagonal overlay creates a series of 45? diagonal lines from the four corners. This intersection is useful working with images that intersecting diagonal lines.
  • Triangle: A series of connected triangles create diagonal lines through the image. Press Shift+O to cycle between a mirrored image version.
  • Golden Ratio: This overlay has many names including the Golden Ratio, Golden Mean or Golden Section. This is often used to place elements at the intersection points. Its similar to the rule of thirds (which is more accurately a simplified version of the Golden Ratio).
  • Golden Spiral: The Golden spiral is often useful for placing leading lines and focal points in an image. Press the Shift+O shortcut to cycle through eight variations.
  • Aspect Ratios: If youd like a good idea on how an image could be cropped use the Aspect Ratios overlay. You can in fact see several aspect ratios at once. To control which ones are used, choose Tools > Crop Guide Overlay > Choose Aspect Ratios. Check to enable as many aspect ratio overlays as desired.

Overlay Shortcuts & Tricks

There are several ways to work with crop overlays.

  • Overlays are automatically visible when you choose the Crop Overlay tool (R).
  • You can select a specific overlay by choosing Tools > Crop Guide Overlay and choose from one of the seven options.
  • You can cycle through the available overlays by pressing the O key.
  • To choose which items are included in the cycle choose Tools > Crop Guide Overlay > Choose Overlays to Cycle.
  • Press the H key to hide overlays from the Crop.
  • To only see the overlay when you click and hold the mouse-down, choose Tools > Tool Overlay > Auto Show. IN this mode, you’ll only see the Overlays when dragging the boundaries or holding the mouse down. I find this mode easy to use overlays some of the time, but see an uncluttered image as I evaluate the crop.
  • Press Command + Option + R (Mac) / Control + Alt + R (Win) to reset the crop.
  • With the Crop Overlay tool active, double-click in the image preview area to apply the crop and exit the Crop tool.

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