Adobe Photoshop essentials: How to crop, resize, and edit photos like a pro

Photoshop's deep toolbox lets you take complete control of this basic editing skill, from proportions to image resolution and more.

adobe photoshop logo
Credit: Rob Schultz

Adobe Photoshop's deep trove of features lets you manipulate every aspect of even basic editing tasks, such as cropping and resizing images. For example, you can edit an amateur snapshot of an executive and transform it into a professional-looking image for corporate documents or a website. Just follow these easy, step-by-step instructions. Note: This exercise uses the Move tool, Marquee selection tool, Polygonal Lasso selection tool, Magic Wand selection tool, and Zoom.

1. Open Photoshop and select File > Open. Browse to the Pictures folder, click the image to select it, then click the Open button. 

1 open file tools used JD Sartain

Open a photograph for editing, plus tools needed for this exercise.

2. First, check the image size. Select Image > Image Size. The Image Size dialog box is divided into two sections: Pixel Dimensions, which shows the width and height of the image in pixels, plus the file size (for the Internet); and Document Size, which is used to size images for printing.

Pro Tip: Internet/website images are sized at 72 pixels/inch, but all print media is sized at 300 pixels/inch (or larger, in some cases). Regardless of the medium, always edit photos at 300 pixels/inch because, you can always downsize an image without losing image quality; but you cannot upsize from low resolution to high resolution. Upsizing results in fuzzy, blurred, shadowy halos (called compression noise) around the objects in the image. Basically, upsizing stretches and distorts the pixels (called pixelation), which, in turn, distorts the image.

3. Before you alter the resolution, notice the three checkboxes in the last panel at the bottom: Scale Styles, Constrain Proportions, and Resample Image.

Scale Styles is for images or projects that use Layer Styles such as posters, flyers, greeting cards, etc. Many Layer Styles use patterns constructed from images or graphics. Resizing and/or resampling a photo affects how these styles appear in an image. The default is checked and, even if your image has no styles, leave it checked (in case you decide to reuse this image later on a campaign poster or brochure that uses styles).

Constrain Proportions means if the width is changed, the height is changed accordingly, so the correct proportions are maintained.

Resample Image means the number of pixels in the image increases or decreases based on the size you input. Unchecking this box means the image is resized, but the number of pixels remains the same. Unchecked is preferred by most, because resizing without resampling allows Photoshop to redistribute the pixels evenly based on the size, which generally works out.

4. To change the Resolution to Print quality, uncheck the Resample Image box (leave Scale Styles and Constrain Proportions checked) and enter 300 in the box, then click OK. Note that the image Width and Height adjust to a smaller size to accommodate the higher resolution.

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Check the resolution and size the photo first.

5. Stop now and save your file (see Saving Files below). Do not resave altered images as JPGs. JPGs use something called lossy compression, which means this format discards bits of the image information in order to create smaller file sizes. If you edit JPGs, and then resave them—over and over—as JPGs, the image quality suffers. Eventually, you'll begin to notice compression noise and distorted pixels. If you don't want to save in Photoshop's PSD file format, choose a lossless compression format instead, such as PNG, BMP, TIFF, or EPS.

6. Next, crop the image. Perform a general crop first, then zoom in and perform a close, precise crop. Use the rectangular Marquee selection tool to draw a frame around the man and part of the busy background. Select Image > Crop. Zoom in and crop some more. Then zoom in for a final crop. Follow the instructions in Saving Files, below, to save your portrait.

Pro tip: Professional portrait photos for business are usually bust shots; that is, cropping the image between the person's chest and waist. For men, crop just below the suit/shirt pocket, which is straight across the chest. For women, crop a bit lower or just below the chest. Make sure the head is centered. Notice the position of the shoulders and try to match them—that is, if part of the shoulder and arm are missing in the original photo, crop the other shoulder/arm the same way.

3 crop the photo JD Sartain

Cropping photographs for best results.

7. Now you have a professional, cropped, high-resolution photo that's camera ready for printing or publishing. (Save again before you proceed.) However, this image cannot be used on a website—its dimensions are too big, the resolution is too high, and the file size is too large. The next step in this process is to scale down the image to 72 pixels/inch, then resize it to 2.25 inches wide x 3 inches tall.

Select Image > Image Size. Uncheck the Resample Image box, then type 72 in the Resolution field box. Next, re-check the Resample Image box, and type 2.25 in the Document Size > Width field box, and click OK. Notice the Document (Image) Height automatically readjusts to 3 inches. (See Saving Files below to save this photo.)

4 one print sone website photo JD Sartain

Create one high-resolution photo for print media and one photo for web use.

8. To save the files, start with your new original, the 4x5-inch photo. Click File > Save As and enter a filename in the File Name field box. Make sure the Format field box says Photoshop (*.PSD; *.PDD), then click the Save button. Use this file for any additional edits or changes.

Now, save the 4x5-inch photo again to a more usable format, such as PNG. Once again, click File > Save As, use the same filename, then click the small arrow beside the Format field box. Scroll down to the PNG format, click once—the filename changes from .PSD to .PNG—then click Save. In the PNG Options dialog box, under Interlace, click None, then click OK, and it's saved.

For the smaller web photo, click File > Save As, and enter a filename. Click the arrow beside the Format box. Scroll down to the JPG format, click once—the filename changes from .PSD to .JPG—then click Save. In the JPEG Options dialog box, under Image Options, enter a number between 0 and 12 to determine the file size and image quality of this JPG. Enter 8, 9, or 10 for a good balance between quality and file size. 

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5- Photoshop: Save photos as PSD (for editing), PNG (for print media), and/or JPG (for Internet) files.

Tune in next week for how to remove busy backgrounds from photos and replace with a professional, custom-textured canvas.

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