Don’t toss those hastily snapped photos – there might be a real gem in there. We’re often driving our motorhome thru picturesque scenery and I don’t have much time to compose the picture. I take whatever shot I can get. For example, the picture below was taken as we traveled over the bridge to Long Beach Island, New Jersey. As is, it’s not a picture I would share with anyone! But, with one crop and one ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ it’s almost frame-able. Oh wait! I can do that in Picasa too – with just one click on ‘Museum Matte.’
How do you crop?
First, you need the desired picture on your screen in full screen view, aka Edit mode. Just double-click on it from your Picasa Library. You can also click on the picture in the library and use the menu View->Edit View. Now you should see all the editing tools at the left. There are 5 tabs of tools. Be sure the first tab – Commonly Needed Fixes – is selected, and you should see Crop as the very first one. When you click on Crop, the screen changes. You have a few crop settings on the left. I leave mine set on ‘Manual’ so I can crop to whatever dimension suits my needs. Notice that this picture I cropped wide, it is not any standard print size.
Now you just drag your mouse so as to draw a rectangle around the part of the picture you want to keep – drag from top left to lower right for example. The rest of the picture will be grayed out. Once you have a rectangle drawn, you can adjust it by clicking and dragging on any edge, or by clicking in the middle and dragging the whole rectangle to a new location. When you have what you want in the highlighted area, you click Apply at the left. That’s it. If you should ever change your mind – just click the Undo button. Picasa does not destroy any of your original.
Almost every picture can be improved with a Crop
Here is a picture from a 4th of July parade – it’s Abraham Lincoln’s lookalike riding on one of the parade floats. The picture is fine as is, but what if we got closer and made the picture be just of Lincoln?
Or this picture of a sailboat. It’s a nice picture, but notice how the sailboat is right in the center of the photo? A common photo composition guideline is called The Rule of Thirds – without going into detail, it generally means that a picture is more pleasing if the main subject is off-center. Cropping can accomplish this. It will also bring the subject closer.
Experiment with Cropping
If you’re not sure how this applies to any given picture, just try it. Click the crop tool, drag a rectangle around the main subjects and click Apply. If you like it, great! If not, just click Undo Crop and try again.
You can even try the suggested crops in the crop setting area. These are nothing special – just a way to get started with cropping. Click one of the 3 suggestions and a rectangle crop area will be drawn on your picture. From there you can grab any edge and drag up/down/left/right to tweak the crop size. You can Preview the results, or just Apply, knowing that you can always undo.
A note about Pixels and Resolution
If you’re going to do any extreme cropping – like in the first picture from the bridge – your picture will need to have enough pixels to support it. This is why it is advisable to keep your camera on the highest resolution setting. You can always subtract pixels from a picture, but you can’t add more than the camera captured.
Pixels are the dots that make up the photograph. If your camera is a 4 megapixel camera, it means that it is capable of capturing a picture using 4 million pixels. Think of a square full of dots – that would be 2,000 dots wide, by 2,000 dots high (2,000X2,000=4,000,000.) The fewer the dots, the lower the quality.
If you want to be able to make a decent picture out of just a portion of your original, you need to start with enough pixels. Find the setting for your camera and make sure it is on ‘High Resolution’ or ‘Fine.’ You may need to get out the manual to see what the setting is for your camera.
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