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Cropping Photos Without Changing The Aspect Ratio

Written by Steve Patterson. Cropping images is by far one of the most common, every day uses for Photoshop. It’s so common that Photoshop comes with a tool designed specifically for cropping photos, conveniently named the Crop Tool. One of the great things about the Crop Tool is that you can easily crop your photos to common photo sizes like 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10 simply by entering the width and height values into the Options Bar before dragging out your cropping border, or by selecting a preset crop size from the Preset picker.

That may be great, but what if you don’t want to change the aspect ratio of the photo? What if you want to crop the image while keeping the width-to-height ratio the same as the original? And what if you’re not sure what the original aspect ratio actually is? You could open the Image Size dialog box to find out the width and height of the image and then do the math, but there’s an even easier way thanks to a rarely used but very useful command in Photoshop called Transform Selection, which is what we’re going to be looking at in this tutorial.

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Here’s the photo I’ll be working with. I want to crop the image more closely around the woman’s face and the flowers she’s holding, but I want the final result to maintain the same aspect ratio as the original:

A photo of a bride smiling. Photo licensed from iStockphoto by Photoshop Essentials.com
The original photo.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Select The Entire Photo

The first thing we need to do is select our entire photo. Go up to the Select menu at the top of the screen and choose All at the very top of the list, or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+A (Win) / Command+A (Mac). Either way selects the entire photo, and you’ll see a selection outline appear around the edges of the image in the document window:

Selecting the entire photo in Photoshop. Image © 2008 Photoshop Essentials.com
A selection outline appears around the entire photo in the document window.

Step 2: Choose “Transform Selection” From The Select Menu

With a selection outline now around the entire photo, go back up to the Select menu once again and this time choose Transform Selection near the bottom of the list:

Selecting the Transform Selection command in Photoshop. Image © 2008 Photoshop Essentials.com
Go to Select > Transform Selection.

Step 3: Resize The Selection

As its name implies, Photoshop’s Transform Selection command allows us to make changes to the selection outline itself without affecting anything inside of the selection. In this case, we want to resize the selection outline and make it smaller until it surrounds only the part of the photo that we want to keep, allowing us to crop away everything else. To resize the selection, hold down your Shift key, then click on any of the handles (the little squares) in the corners of the selection and drag the corner inward. Holding the Shift key down forces the width-to-height aspect ratio of the selection to remain the same as you drag, which is what allows us to maintain the same aspect ratio as the original photo.

You can move the selection outline as well by clicking anywhere inside of the selection and dragging it to a new location. Just don’t click on that little target symbol in the center of the selection, otherwise you’ll move the target symbol, not the selection. Continue moving and resizing the selection as needed until it’s surrounding only the area you want to keep:

Resizing and moving the selection outline in Photoshop. Image © 2008 Photoshop Essentials.com
Hold Shift and drag any of the corner handles inward to resize the selection outline while keeping the aspect ratio the same.

When you’re done, press Enter (Win) / Return (Mac) to accept the transformation.

Step 4: Crop The Image

At this point, all that’s left to do is crop away the area outside of our selection! For that, we can use Photoshop’s Crop command. Go up to the Image menu at the top of the screen and choose Crop:

Selecting the Crop command in Photoshop. Image © 2008 Photoshop Essentials.com
Go to Image > Crop.

As soon as you select Crop, Photoshop goes ahead and crops away everything that falls outside of the selection, leaving us with a cropped version of the photo that maintains the exact same aspect ratio as the original:

The final cropped photo in Photoshop. Image © 2008 Photoshop Essentials.com
The aspect ratio of the cropped image remains the same as the original photo.

To remove the selection outline, either go back up to the Select menu and choose Deselect or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+D (Win) / Command+D (Mac). And there we have it!

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