A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

Crop Photographs in Lightroom

A crop is a making a rectangular selection in a photograph. This could be a compositional  adjustment  of the photograph or fine tuning the shape to fit  a display medium. Cropping  is useful for candid and action shots where there are compositional aspects beyond the photographer’s control.

There are a number of reasons why it is difficult to always compose the photograph perfectly in the camera.  It could be there is no time to move to  a position frame the photograph exactly, or it may be physically impractical.  Especially when the distance from the subject does not match the focal length if you are using a prime lens, but also when you run out of zoom.

For action shots often there is no time to carefully frame a fast moving event in the viewfinder, the main object is making sure you capture all the important elements of the subject.  The old compositional adage is to “fill the frame”  but you do need to take care not to overflow the frame.

Lightroom screen shot

The Lightroom image preview and crop panel

Even in nominally static landscape photography, time can be critical as the changing light will not  wait. So you have to shoot when an opportunity presents itself, often depending on the angle of the sun and breaks in cloud cover.

Software editing apps, such as Adobe Lightroom, only present a preview of the changes to the user. Any changes are not made to the  original photo file, but are applied when a copy is created or a print is made. This allows photographers to improve their composition skills by experimenting with cropping  adjustments to photos.

The lessons learned using the cropping tool can be applied to future photographs to minimise the need or extent of any cropping required. Keeping cropping to a minimum  preserves resolution because every time you crop part of  a photograph you lose resolution or a number of megapixels from the photograph. High-resolution digital cameras make this less of a problem it is still better to preserve as much detail as possible.

Lightroom control panel

The Lightroom crop panel is opened with the dashed rectangle icon


Large bodies of water, such as lakes and seas, produce a flat horizon.  Most buildings have  vertical orientation rather than leaning to one side.

Aspect ratio

One of the important jobs of the crop tool is to choose the section of the image from the original photograph to a different aspect ratio print or screen size. The relationship between the width and height of an image is the aspect ratio.

Photographs are displayed using  a wide variety of shapes.  Even the humble print has a range of paper sizes with slightly different shapes and then there are device screens.  I have a number of computers each with a different shape and size  screen. This also applies to cameras, where the width and height of the film, or digital sensor, varies.

Using Lightroom crop tool

The basic crop tool is an adjustable rectangle superimposed on the image shown in Lightroom’s preview window. To adjust the size of the crop box drag it by one of its edges.

When the padlock icon in the crop menu is closed the crop box uses a fixed aspect ratio where  dragging one side also moves the adjacent side as well.  If the padlock is open then the side being dragged moves independent of the adjacent sides. This changes the aspect ratio as well as the size of the selection.

This technique is useful  when there is  flexibility in the display format and the best composition does not match the aspect ratio of the camera.

Aspect Ratio:

The Adobe Lightroom crop tool menu has a number of standard aspect ratios for common print and screen sizes. Then there is an option to add a custom aspect ratio for the pop-up list.

The Lightroom crop tool selection overlay has Rule of Thirds guides to help make adjustments using  this compositional guide.

Lightroom popup menu

The aspect ratio menu


The Straightening tool has a number of options for rotating the crop box. There is an auto function where Lightroom  analyses the photograph and estimates the proper horizontal angle. Also, there is an angle slider for adjusting the horizontal angle by dragging the slider or specifying a numerical value.

Pro Tip: use the up and down arrow keys to alter the numerical value of the angle in small steps. 

If you move the pointer outside the crop box corner then the pointer changes to a double-ended arrow, indicating the crop box is in rotate mode. Then click and drag the pointer to alter the angle of the crop box.

rotate image

Rotating adds extra vertical and horizontal lines in the crop box

The spirit level icon allows you to draw a line on the image to match a horizontal or vertical object and Lightroom uses that as a reference to straighten the crop box image.


It is easy to move the  crop box around the image in the preview window. Move the pointer inside the selection area and when the pointer changes to a hand to drag the crop box to a new position on the image.

Architectural photos: 

Cropping is necessary after Lightroom tools to correct the perspective of apparently tilting tall buildings. If you tick the “constrain to crop” option in the crop panel then Lightroom automatically crops the image to fit.

Nikon D3400 Bluetooth DLSR

DSLR camera

The Nikon D3400 is based on a proven entry level DSLR camera the D3300 with the inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity and new lenses.

With  Bluetooth pairing, the D3400 can instantly share photographs with smart devices for use on social media or by email.

“Featuring a variety of user-friendly features like Nikon SnapBridge, the new D3400 gives those new to DSLR photography the opportunity to proudly capture what they love and easily share with friends and family,” said Kosuke Kawaura, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc. “The introduction of the new series of NIKKOR lenses demonstrate Nikon’s commitment to providing affordable and versatile lens options to DX-format DSLR photographers looking to capture their own unique perspective of the world.” (more…)

Understanding White Balance

afternoon scene

Light is not always white, even when it appears that way to the human eye. Our brains adjust automatically to slightly different coloured light and see the scene as if it is lit by white light.  Automatic White Balance (AWB) system in digital cameras or adjusting in Adobe Lightroom, makes it easy to get true colours under different lighting conditions.

Colour is not what it seems

Each light source is a slightly different colour. The measurement scale used to denote the colours is called the colour temperature, expressed in degrees Kelvin (K). This  temperature refers to the theoretical temperature of the light emitting source. Midday sun in a cloudless sky is considered to be white light with a colour temperature of 5600º K.  Artificial sources vary greatly in colour temperature with “warm white” incandescent lamps around 2500 K and “soft white” compact  fluorescent lights are around 3000º K. The emergence of compact fluorescent and LED lamps has complicated white balance as the new technologies have different colour temperatures. (more…)

Selective Adjustments in Lightroom

old mill building

Lightroom has an easy to use tool for selective exposure adjustments  of a photograph. This is because not all areas of a photograph need the same type or amount of adjustment.

The purpose of  selecting sections of a photograph for adjustment is to compensate for the inability of  cameras to capture the full range of light levels in a scene. When we look at a scene our eyes adjust as we look at different parts, but a camera has to make do with the one setting. Instead, the adjustments are made afterwards in software such as Adobe Lightroom.

This is not compensating for poor photographic technique, it is important to capture  as much detail as possible. Particularly not to overexpose the highlights because if they are lost then there is no way to recover them. Another important consideration is using the raw image file and not an already processed jpeg format image file. Raw files contain more information than jpegs about the scene, giving greater scope for adjustments in Lightroom. (more…)

Nikon 105mm Medium Telephoto Prime Lens


Nikon celebrates the production of 100 Million Nikkor lenses by announcing a new premium medium telephoto lens.

“Surpassing the 100 million lenses produced milestone is a great honour and a testament to the photographers who both love and rely on NIKKOR glass to get the job done,” said Kosuke Kawaura, Director of Marketing and Planning, Nikon Inc.

The new Nikon lens is a 105mm prime lens with a wide f/1.4 maximum aperture suitable for  full-frame (FX-format) cameras.  The  NIKKOR f/1.4 lens is one of Nikon’s Gold Ring Series of lenses, which include only premium primes with Nano Crystal Coat and pro-grade build quality. As befits a premium lens there are seals and gaskets to resist dust and moisture. Flourine coatings on the front and rear lens elements make it easier to clean off dirt and smudges. (more…)