Texas Chicks Lightroom Classes Online Lightroom and Elements - All You Need

Photoshop Elements – Cropping vs. Resizing

by Erin Peloquin on January 4, 2011 · 47 comments

Using Photoshop Elements is less than intuitive sometimes.  Especially when it comes to things that should be simple, like the size of photos.  Should you crop or resize?  Change the resolution?  PPI?  What?

Now, there are many ways to accomplish the same thing in Elements – here is what I do to keep those two straight.

Cropping is for when you need to recompose a picture (crop out something to get rid of it or change the focal point) or for when you need to make a picture fit a certain size paper.

Resizing is for when you need to make the picture “weigh” less. For putting it on the internet or emailing it.  Both statements are broad generalizations, of course, but they will get you started down the path of understanding.

Here are some examples. I would start by showing you the size of an unresized/uncropped image from my camera, but it would be much bigger than this blog and would take eons to upload.

Here is an image, resized to fit this blog. (I’ll tell you how I resized in a bit.)

Not much of a picture, right?  Composition is terrible.  My zoom lens wasn’t long enough to get me closer to the deer without scaring them.  And why did I think I needed the rear fender of my neighbor’s car in the picture?  Now is a good time for cropping – the kind of cropping that recomposes a picture.

You’ll have to click on the screen shot below to enlarge it and see what I did.

I pulled out my handy crop tool.  That’s the one you see in the orange circle about half-way down the left side of the screen – looks like a funny square.  I clicked and dragged out the lighter area you see around the deer – that’s the part I want to keep.  I pressed the green check mark at the bottom right to commit the crop.

Now there are a couple of things to notice about the crop tool settings, found along the top of my Photoshop Elements work space.  Do you see the orange circle at the top left?  It says “Aspect Ratio: Use Photo Ratio.” This means that the ratio of width to height of my cropped image will be the same as it was when it came off the camera.  Most of us have cameras that produce images that have 4×6 ratios.  That means they print 4×6 photos, or photos that are twice as big (8×12) or three times as big (12×18), etc.

If I don’t need a ratio of a different size (say 5×5, 8×10 or 5×7), I use my Photo Ratio setting when cropping.

So here is the cropped image – cropped for recomposition only.  The annoying car fender is gone, and it conforms more closely to the rule of thirds.

I mentioned another type of cropping – cropping to make an image fit a specific size of paper or frame.  Say I wanted a 5×5 print.  I would change the aspect ratio box to 5×5, like this:

And the resulting image would look like this:

Or like this, if I wanted all three deer:

Either way, the aspect ratio is the same.

What if I wanted a 5×7?  I’d go back to the original image, select the 5×7 ratio, and crop something like this:

Ok, does that explain cropping in Photoshop Elements?  You use it to recompose your image for artistic purposes, or to change the width and height of an image to fit a specific size paper or frame.

Now for Resizing.

I resize before I email or post images on the internet.  To resize, go to the Image Menu, select Resize, and then Image Size.  Or type control+alt+i.  My uncropped, unresized image looks like this:

What it tells me is that my image is currently 5184 pixels wide and 3456 pixels tall, and 240 pixels per inch.  Divide 5184 by 240, and you get 21.6, which is the width this image would be if I sent it to print and didn’t specify a paper size to use.  Same for the height – divide 3456 by 240 and you get 14.4 inches tall.

Here’s the thing about resolution.  It’s a tough concept to understand.  Here’s something else.  You really only need to know two numbers.  If you want to print your image, don’t reduce the size of the resolution unless you have to.  It you want to post your image on the internet or email it, change your resolution to 72 pixels per inch (ppi).   This is because the monitors that we use to look at the internet and our email, and even our TVs, can’t show resolutions finer than 72ppi.

The higher the resolution, the bigger the file size (or weight) in bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, gigabytes, whatever.  So, to minimize file uploading time or email sending time without reducing the quality of your image, change the resolution to 72.  That’s what I did here.  Look at what happened to width and height in both pixels and inches:

The size in inches didn’t change because we didn’t crop the size of the picture.  However, we are covering the same amount of inches (21.6 across) with fewer pixels per inch.  That means that if we were to print this 21 inch file, it would be only 1555 pixels across and it would look pixelated because the pixels would have to stretch out until they were actually big enough for our eyes to see them.

But, this is the size our computer monitors and TVs are optimized for, so it wouldn’t look pixelated at all on the computer.  It would still be too wide though.  I know that my blog is about 600 pixels wide, so I need to make sure that any images I post are less than 600 pixels.  I would go one step further:

I would change the width in pixels to 550 pixels at 72 ppi.  And now, this image is perfect for posting on the internet.

Don’t think you can stop reading though, because there’s one more thing I want to tell you. See that check box in the screen shot above that says Constrain Proportions?  Make sure it’s checked before you resize your images.  First off, if you do, you can plug in a new width and Elements will automatically calculate the height for you.  And if you don’t, and forget to change the height along with the width, you’ll get something like this:

That doesn’t look right, does it?

I have a feeling this post is going to generate some questions on aspect ratios.  Like, if my camera makes 4×6 images, and I want to print it on a bigger size paper, like 5×7, why exactly do I have to crop out part of my image?  Let’s cover that one in a few days!

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Stuart Little January 4, 2011 at 7:14 am

Happy New Year Erin,

Good Post. :)

Just thought I ought to mention that you can use resizing to upscale or interpolate images to make the bigger or more heavier if you like. I recently did a post on my site that would help your readers to understand resizing and resolution in a more depth.

http://www.alittlephotoshop.com/videos/4-ways-to-resize-upscaling-images-with-photoshop-cs5-lightroom-3-2/

Cheers

Stu

Reply

Sheila January 4, 2011 at 9:33 am

Wow! I have been DYING for someone to explain this in more depth to me. Anxiously awaiting a post on aspect ratios next! Thanks again!

Reply

bdaiss January 4, 2011 at 11:04 am

Great explanation! I’ve had this one figured out for awhile, but maybe you can help explain something that totally totally baffles me. (Yes, I meant to say totally twice.) Why doesn’t a 5×7 = 4×6? It’s just one more inch on each side. Yet, if you take a 4×6 and crop to 5×7 dimension, there’s a bit on the width that’s lost. And if you have a 5×7 and add a 4×6 crop box on top, you lose some height. Does that make any sense? The engineer in me is failing to find an explanation for this…

Reply

admin January 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Thank you! Your question is the topic of the next post on aspect ratios. It TOTALLY isn’t logical, is it?

Reply

Nick June 19, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Because 4 is 2/3′s of 6 and 5 is not 2/3′s of 7. :-)

Reply

Kathleen January 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Great tutorial. I like your style of explaining things. I’ll be looking out for the next one on aspect ratios. Thank you.

Reply

Jenny January 4, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Thank you!!! That is just what I needed! :)

Reply

Tammy January 5, 2011 at 2:39 pm

keep ‘em coming. I have photoshop – not elements. I’m forever trying to learn to resize my images – still haven’t figured it out. grrr…. :/

Reply

admin January 5, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Hey Tammy, how are you? The process should be almost exactly the same in full Photoshop. What’s hanging you up?

Reply

Taryn January 7, 2011 at 8:18 am

Great tutorial. I have the biggest problem understanding Constrain Proportions, Resample, and Scale. If you could do more on those it would be great! Thanks

Reply

admin January 7, 2011 at 8:29 am

Yes, that will be part of the Aspect Ratio tutorial. Thanks for reading, Taryn!

Reply

Vera January 7, 2011 at 8:37 am

Hi! Great explanation! I was wondering if you change the color space for posting on the web. For example do you change the color space to sRGB for web and RGB for print? I’m trying to wrap my brain around that whole concept!

Reply

admin January 7, 2011 at 8:48 am

Hi Vera,

I do change the color space to sRGB for posting on the web. For print, I do whatever my printer tells me to.

Erin

Reply

Juju January 7, 2011 at 9:09 am

Very helpful! But when resizing for posting online, why not just use the “Save for web” feature of PSE? The process you describe does seem faster, but is there any other advantage?

To bdaiss, the difference between 4×6 and 5×7 involves the ratios: the sides of a 4×6 are based on a 1-to-1 1/2 ratio, while the sides of a 5×7 are 1-to-1 2/5. What I don’t understand is why there ARE different ratios in standard photograph sizes. Why isn’t the next size up from 4×6 a 5×7.5? And what’s with 8×10 (1-to-1 1/4)?

Ouch–my poor head! ;)

Reply

admin January 7, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hi Juju, Resize gives me more control that Save for Web. I can choose the specific resolution I want in Resize. Also, I don’t get that annoying message when saving large files telling me that the file is too large. Good question!

Reply

Wanda G January 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm

YOU ROCK! Thanks for everything you give us…tips, downloads, everything. It is really appreciated. This was a great post.

Reply

admin January 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Thank you, Wanda!

Reply

grambie January 7, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Wonderful tutorial that you have explained so that even a
novice can readily understand. It is definitely appreciated.
HUGS!

Reply

admin January 7, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Thank you!

Reply

Brenda Edwards January 21, 2011 at 9:40 am

Thank you so much for explaining this! You are awesome!

Reply

Anna S February 7, 2011 at 1:32 am

Here’s my dilemma when it comes to resizing. I want one copy of my photo for my blog and another for printing. I also don’t want to have to go thru each and every photo, resize and sharpen and then save as, undo and repeat for the other style. Is there an easier way to do it? Should I save them all as if for printing and then export from the organizer (this is what I’ve always done before by choosing jpeg and then the file size, but I am unable to specify the resolution. And even if I could, would it be sharpened correctly for the reduced size?) Maybe I could make my action? I have no idea, I’ve just come across the free MCP resizing and sharpening actions and wondering if I should change my techniques.

Reply

admin February 7, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Hi Anna. That is the issue, isn’t it? Do you really print and blog about every image? You have a couple of options. MCP’s free sharpening and resizing action will sharpen for both print and screen. The resize portion resizes your image to 900 pixels wide at 72 ppi. MCP also has another action called Finish It that will prepare your images for the screen, including resizing to most common sizes and applying a watermark, branding bar or logo. That is the one I use most frequently for screen preparation. I always save my file with a different name so that I have an unsharpened file to open if I decide to print it. I would then sharpen it appropriately, depending on the size of the print, and then save a 3rd version of the file. But I don’t do huge amounts of printing either.

Reply

Anna S February 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Well, I don’t print and blog every image but definitely a lot! I was hoping there was an easier way that I hadn’t seen yet. I may just go back to exporting my print-ready photos at a smaller size because I care less about my blog photos than my scrapbook.

Reply

Stephanie April 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Whoa! I am confused! Why would you not want to print an unsharpened file? Is there a general rule about sharpening and printing of which I should be aware? Yikes!!

Reply

shellia July 26, 2011 at 9:23 am

Thank you so much, I have had a problem with this for a long time!!!

Reply

debbie September 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm

“I have a feeling this post is going to generate some questions on aspect ratios. Like, if my camera makes 4×6 images, and I want to print it on a bigger size paper, like 5×7, why exactly do I have to crop out part of my image? Let’s cover that one in a few days! ‘
That was the last paragraph this page, have you covered the rest yet?

Reply

Karen November 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm

First of all wonderful job! Now I have a question? I have just started scrapbooking and just like your pic with your deer if I was wanting it be a size 4×4 is that possible and be able to keep all 3 deer. I was thinking I could take any pic I took and if I needed a 3×3 or 4×4 size for my pages that I could resize and keep my whole pic like it is and then print it. I hope this makes sense. I’m new to this just got my photshop elements 9 and trying to learn. Thnaks so much for all your help.

Reply

Mike Moschitta November 10, 2011 at 11:00 pm

great post! it really helped me out with this topic. It appears that you are using Elements 9 Correct? If so how did you get the tool bar on the left side into a single row? I can get it that way but it cuts off some of the tools at the bottom of the screen and the only way I know how to get them back is to reset the panels.

thanks

Reply

Mariana Melendez November 15, 2011 at 2:12 am

Hi! Thanks for the post! I think I understand it now…but I still have a question! So, I am trying to crop one of my wedding pictures to where it is just me and the hubby…is this possible? It’s a picture with the bridal party on either side and us in the middle. I am using Picasa and when I crop it, it just seems to get very blurry…do I just need to try a different program or is this a lost cause?

Reply

Erin November 15, 2011 at 8:38 am

Hi Mariana. If it’s blurry when you crop, either the resolution isn’t high enough to support a crop or the focus just isn’t on you and it’s more obvious when you crop. thanks! Erin

Reply

LaDonna January 8, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Very helpful; A question? I am working on what I thought would be a simple little project – just installed Elements 10 and am somewhere between newbie and intermediate, I guess.

Did some simple repairs, added a title; resized the orignal photo from 5.9 X 3,something to 6X4. now when I print it i lose the top 1/8″ inch,which matters in this photo. any suggestions?

Reply

Belia June 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Hey there!
Ok I’m a beginner with Photoshop Elements 10 and I decided to attempt to create my daughters birthday invitations. They look great on screen but when I printed them they came out all blurry. Help me please.
Bel

Reply

Erin June 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Sounds like a resolution issue. Search my blog for help with that.

Reply

Jim July 13, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Hi, just received Photoshop Elements 10. I read your information on resize but when I click IMAGE then RESIZE it doesn’t give me the option of changing the width and height in pixels. I can see the width and height but it won’t let me go there to change it. It only lets me change the size in inches. I need the width and height to be a specific number of pixels and the DPI 300 to enter an event. Help please! Thanks in advance for your response.

Reply

Erin July 13, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Hi Jim. Don’t forget to check the box for Resample at the bottom.

Reply

Lindsay August 16, 2012 at 8:46 pm

wow that was confusing since I’m new at this! lol. If my picture is BIG is that why my watermark I made is grainy looking?

Reply

Siry January 24, 2013 at 11:51 am

I am submitting pictures for work, they require 1024 pixels but keeping it at a 1MB file. I seem to always get the pixelation but not the size of the file, I end up shrinking it to a lot less than 1MB file. Any suggestions?

Reply

Ann February 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Really diggin’ your blog! Thank you for all of the help! I’m not sure what I’m doing here on my work PC (what the settings are that are challenging me) but at home on my PS Elements I’m able to reduce the res to 72 and still change the dimensions of the image. Here on my work PC when I change the res to 72 it maintains the dimensions according to the res size. Or if I change the dimensions, it will affect the res number. I can’t for the life of me figure out what I need to do to make it work. I did a Google search and your blog came up.

Reply

Erin February 12, 2013 at 10:16 am

Turn on the Resample Box in the image size dialog.

Reply

Kenneth August 28, 2013 at 8:27 am

I use that with Bicubid smoother when enlarging, but I recon there are some limits for how much I can blow it up? I also read that it should only be done once.

Reply

Debra Reynolds August 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Very interesting… Do you have a video on this, or do you plan on having a video along
with the Tutorial, it helps me with both with the screen shots and a video.
Thank You for taking your time to help us!
I enjoy your tutorials.

Reply

Erin Peloquin August 16, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I don’t right now, Debra, but I will soon!

Reply

Kenneth August 28, 2013 at 5:14 am

My problem is when I take photos of my paintings. I have a D70 Nikon, 6mp. I want to print my photos in A3 size, offset prints. I only want a part of my painting printed. So I open my raw file, and I am going to use my crop tool. If I choose a width of 8×10 Inc, the file gets a lot bigger, if I choose a width of 4×6 inch the file gets smaller. For offset prints I need the file to be in a A3 size, in cm. But if I resize it to A3 photoshop will have to add info to the image and I recon that wont be a good solution. So whats the best solution for getting the best result without messing around too much with the file? Or do I simply need a better camera?

Reply

shane December 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Hi,
Please help me out. When I have customers email me pictures for canvas prints they turn out grainy sometimes. They let me know that the camera is plenty big enough. What is the best way to clean them up for bigger pictures , say a 36×20. Can I just resize the dpi in photoshop before printing? Thanks Shane!

Reply

Rachael January 2, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I was going to go and do a course to help me understand this stuff… no need to now! Your explanations and examples are FANTASTIC!!! And just by you using one term “weigh” less…. has now made me understand what is actually happening to the image. Thanks SO much!!!!!
Rachael Perth WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Reply

Erin Peloquin January 7, 2014 at 10:00 am

Hi Rachael! Thanks so much for your kind message. Funny how just one word can light the bulb sometimes, right? Take care!

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: