Digital photo editing is a marvelous invention. We can take as many photos as we like from different angles and enhance them later using a photo editor. Crop and resize are both super helpful tools to enhance our less-than-professional camera skills post-shoot but each have different purposes. To get those photos just right, you’ll need to know what cropping and resizing are, and when to use each tool for editing your photos.
What Is Cropping?
Cropping is cutting off a portion of your image to improve framing, put emphasis on your subject, or change the aspect ratio. This kind of photo manipulation allows you to keep all the elements you want and eliminate the ones you don’t. Cropping can also help you to reframe your subject or draw the viewer into a certain area for greater impact. In order to fully understand cropping, you’ll need to know two important terms: aspect ratio and pixels.
The aspect ratio is the ratio of the sides of your image in different dimensions, or the width and height a photo needs to fit a certain space. For example, a rectangular or landscape oriented photo’s aspect ratio would equal the ratio of the longer side of the image to the shorter side. In other words, it would look like the ratio of width to height, represented as x:y.
Pixels are the tiny squares of color that make up your photo. Every digital photo is made up of a grid of horizontal and vertical pixels that work together to create your image. When you crop a photo, you reduce the number pixels as you cut off certain areas of your image, thus reducing the overall size of the photo.
What Is Resizing?
Resizing is altering the size of your image without cutting anything out. To resize an image is to essentially change the file size. Because sometimes, size does matter.
Resizing can help your photo fit into a certain space on a screen, such as in a blog post or social media post. Smaller images weigh less than larger ones, which can be important for making an uploading process faster or taking up less storage room on your devices.
Resizing works beautifully when you’re taking a large photo and reducing the size, but a common problem with resizing photos larger than the original is that it changes the resolution, or the amount of fine detail in an image. In photography, resolution is often expressed as Pixels Per Inch (PPI) in the digital realm or Dots Per Inch (DPI) in the print realm.
Remember how we talked about pixels being the tiny dots of color that complete an image? Pixels Per Inch (PPI) refers to the amount of pixels seen on a digital screen or device, per inch. Dots Per Inch (DPI) refers to the amount of pixels seen on a printed image, per inch. When you resize a photo larger, you’re essentially stretching the pixels per inch, thus deteriorating the quality of your image whether it’s being used digitally or printed. This is why resizing works best when you’re reducing the size of the photo to fit a certain dimension or decreasing the file size.
To recap, with cropping, you are removing a portion of the image. With resizing, you are keeping the whole image intact, just making it smaller (decreasing both the resolution and the file size). Both cropping and resizing are helpful individually but also work well together. Now, let’s look at some examples of when and how to use cropping and resizing.
Should I Crop or Resize?
Use the Crop tool when you need to cut certain elements out of the photo or want to create a more obvious focal point. Also when:
Since the goal in printing an image is to make the pixels too small to be seen individually after the print is made (nobody likes a blocky, pixelated photo), the goal is to reduce the pixel size. Cropping comes in handy for printing, especially since BeFunky’s Crop tool features pre-set crop templates for common printing aspect ratios like 4x6, 8x10, 16x9, and so on. If you want to make sure you get the most aesthetically pleasing crop, there’s even a Golden Ratio crop template!
Want to make sure you get as much of the photo into the aspect ratio as possible? Check the box for “Lock Aspect Ratio” and then drag the edges of the crop tool to include more of the photo, yet keep the aspect ratio the same.
A printed photo is going to look different on paper than it does on screen. There are some things you can do to prepare your photo for print with more consistency between the print and digital formats. Using the sharpening tool, for example, can improve the image for printing. Also upping the contrast slightly can help the quality of your printed image.
If you’re looking to print a size that isn’t already preset on the Crop templates, there is a Pixel Dimension Guide for print sizes available here, so you’ll know exactly how large or small your photo needs to be before you hit the print button.
Social Media Profile Photos
Whether you go the professional route for your profile pictures or make it all you with a selfie, they will need to be in the correct orientation. Cropping and resizing may be used together in preparing your profile pictures for different platforms. Crop the image to fit the dimensions and if you want more of the photo in the shot, lock the aspect ratio, and then drag the blue circles on the edges of the crop templates to expand the crop. Notice that when you resize your crop by dragging the blue circles, the overall size increases. This is where the Resize tool comes in handy as a next step - to make sure it’s sized back down to original pixel requirement once you have the perfect crop.
For example, most social media profile images need to be cropped into a square, or a ratio of 1x1 (the same height and width on all sides). Facebook profile images are displayed at 170 x 170 pixels on computers and even smaller on mobile. Twitter profile pictures are also square but need to be 400 x 400 pixels for desktop. It’s best practice to crop your profile photo to the required dimensions of the desktop view for your social media channels and then let the mobile versions manually compress the shot.
To make sure you have the correct dimension for your profile image, double check that the Width and Height boxes meet the display requirements when you’re in the Crop or Resize tool tabs.
Social Media Posts
Pictures for social media posts can be landscape, portrait, or square orientation, depending on the platform. Twitter images look best in landscape orientation at 506 x 253 pixels. Pinterest pins look best in long-form portrait orientation. Facebook supports landscape images at 470 x 235 pixels and square images at 470 x 470 pixels.
Since the size of the images for each platforms vary so much, it’s beneficial to use BeFunky’s Crop tool in freeform mode and type in the dimensions into the boxes for Width and Height. This way you get the perfect sizing every time. If you want to see more of the photo in the crop, just check the box for Lock Aspect Ratio and drag the blue squares to fit more of the photo in, then head over to the Resize tool and size it back down to the correct aspect ratio.
Social Media Cover Art
By cropping your images to fit every platform, from Facebook covers to YouTube channel art, your image will stay crisp and clear. Be sure that your image meets the minimal dimensions across all the social platforms or it will be stretched to fit and likely distorted. Luckily, preset Crop Templates are available in the Crop tool’s drop down menu to keep aspect ratios correct for Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube cover art.
Another important thing to keep in mind with social media covers is where overlaid buttons will land. You do not want important portions of your image, such as text, covered up by subscribe and follow buttons, so take note of where these objects might hinder your shot and position your photo accordingly.
eCommerce and Product Photos
Using your photos to show off products on Etsy, eBay, or another eCommerce site? Or maybe you are want to show off your rental property on Airbnb or VRBO? You need those photos to be super crisp and clear so you can present your assets at their best.
Just like with social media posts, you will want to crop your product photos for the dimensions required first and then resize if needed. Like we mentioned before, it’s best to start with a larger photo and resize it down than trying to make it larger and stretching the pixels.
Use Resize When
A Smaller File Size Is Needed
When you’re saving images to your computer, you can use the Resize tool to decrease the size and make it weigh less. This will take up less space on your computer so you have room for even more photos and files.
When emailing an image as an attachment, you’ll want to make sure the file is small - otherwise the person receiving the email will most likely be annoyed at a large download attachment! Email attachments work best as .jpegs, so after using the Resize tool to make the file weigh less, save it in this common file format.
Adjusting Photos For Blogs And Websites
If you’ve got a digital camera that captures photos using loads of megapixels, the photos are incredibly sharp and detailed, but the file sizes can be huge! That’s great news for using the Resize tool, because decreasing the size will keep all the details in tact while making the photo easier to upload initially, plus images will load faster for your viewers. Find the ideal size that your site requires, then resize the photos accordingly.
Not knowing when to crop and when to resize your images can create a dull and unfocused result. But, you don’t have to fully understand the world of pixels and aspect ratios to create crisp and clean images for print, social media, or eCommerce sites.
A basic understanding of your goal, a splash of creativity, and an easy-to-use photo editor will have you looking like a professional in no time.