In this video from our Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD, we will demonstrate how to make a major crop to an image. Major cropping is when we need to make significant changes to the composition of an image. Major cropping is useful when the composition of your image is wrong or if you simply want a different composition for the image, even if the original composition was fine.

When we crop in so severely however, a lot of resolution (megapixels) in the image are lost. As a result, we need to make some extra detail enhancements to the image to make up for the loss of resolution. In this tutorial, we will also demonstrate how to make these compensations for detail enhancement correctly.

Watch the video or continue reading the article below!

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How to Make a Major Crop to an Image

Below is the image that we will be using for this tutorial. As you can see, there is already a minor crop applied to our image, which we did in our previous tutorial, “Examples of How to Make Minor Crops to Images in Lightroom 4.”


Crop Overlays
To cycle to Full Screen Mode in Lightroom 4, press “F.” Then, press “R” to select the Cropping Tool. As mentioned earlier, although the original composition of an image might be fine, we could still add a major crop to the image and change the composition. This particular image was purposely shot to include a lot of negative space and there is nothing wrong with the composition. If we cycle through the Crop Overlays (press “O” repeatedly), this image fits the Swirl Crop Overlay.


However, if we want to crop this image to the Rule of Thirds Overlay, then we need to make a significant crop to our image since this image does not follow the Rule of Thirds. Press “O” to cycle through the Crop Overlays until you get the Rule of Thirds Overlay.


Constrain the Proportions
There are two ways to constrain the proportions of the image and retain the original image aspect ratio. The first is to hold down “Shift” while adjusting the image with the Cropping Tool. Another way to constrain the proportions is to keep it locked. If this icon is displayed as unlocked, then it is going to free-transform unless you hold down the “Shift” key. If you hold down “Shift,” the proportions are still constrained, regardless if the icon is locked or unlocked. To unlock or lock, simply click on the icon.


Making a Major Crop
First, we are going to pull with the Cropping Tool from the left edge of the image. Keep dragging it until the bird is right on the One Third Line. Leave a little bit of space above the bird’s head, but be careful not to leave too much space since that will look a bit awkward.

Below, the bird is right on the One-Third Line.


Now, if there were some clouds or a better horizon line in this image, we would probably leave the crop on the Two Third Line on the horizon line and the One Third Line on the bird, as pictured below.


However, the water in this image looks better than the horizon and mountains, so we are going to pull the image down a little more.

Below is the final crop of our image, which now follows the Rule of Thirds.


A Quick Tip
When traveling, it is usually inconvenient to bring really long telephoto lenses. I usually bring a 70-200mm lens and shoot at full RAW, instead of mRAW or any other resolution setting. The reason why is because if I shoot something that is not close enough, I can crop in and get a little bit of an extra zoom digitally by cropping in on my image in post production. So, we highly recommend that you shoot in larger RAW format so that you can actually crop in later on and still have enough detail in your image.

How to Make Correct Detail Enhancements

We have cropped about 20% off from the original image, which is a pretty major crop. As a result, we need to enhance the details a little more than normal.

Sharpening in the Detail Panel
If you want to enlarge and print your image, especially after performing a significant crop, we recommend that you first take the image into Adobe Photoshop, enlarge it there, and then apply the detail enhancement adjustments once you are back in Lightroom 4.

To expand the Detail Panel, press “Ctrl + 5.” Next, zoom in to 1:1. For this particular image, we will bring Amount up to 85 and Radius to 1.5. Next, bring Detail up to 30 and leave Masking at zero.


If you do not want to sharpen the smaller details too much, then bring up Masking. In our previous tutorial, “How to Sharpen Images with the Detail Panel in Lightroom 4,” we discussed how holding down “Alt” while moving the Masking slider will bring up the Sharpening Mask. This mask lets you see exactly what part of the image the overall sharpening adjustment will affect. For example, if we take Masking up to 20-25, most of the grain in the image is removed while only the stronger lines are enhanced with the Sharpening effect. For now, we will leave Masking at 0.

Below is the Sharpening Mask on our image zoomed in 1:1, and you can see that the sharpening is affecting the subject much more than the background, just like it ought to.


Noise Reduction in the Detail Panel
To reduce the noise in our image, bring Luminance up to 25. Be careful not to bring Luminance up too high; we’re looking for a balance that gives us a smooth background bokeh without taking away too much detail in the feathers etc.

In our image below, we brought Luminance all the way up to 70. As you can see, we have lost a lot of detail in the feathers. Now, the feathers look like a smoothed over painting…  So that is why we’re leaving Luminance at about 25.


Next, we are going to check what ISO this image was shot at to see if we need to do any Color Noise Reduction. In our previous tutorial, “How to Reduce Noise in an Image Shot at a High ISO with the Detail Panel in Lightroom 4,” we explained what Color Noise is and how to fix it. Press “I” to toggle the information. Our image was shot at ISO 800 so we will need to reduce the Color Noise since this is a relatively high ISO. If we zoom in 3:1, we can see that the noise has a color shift to it. If we were to bring Color down to zero, we start to see differences in color within that grain.


Raise Color up to 40 so that the grain is just one standard color. Below is the final settings for Noise Reduction in the Detail Panel for our image.


Below is our final image with the detail enhancements and major crop.



Conclusion & Learn More!

Once you have finished making the detail enhancement adjustments, check your image at 1:1. Make sure that you have reduced some noise but not enough to kill important details in the image. Now that we have enhanced the details of the image, our cropped file will print out much better than if we were to just crop and not make any detail enhancement adjustments. If you want to increase sharpening, that is up to you. However, around 85-90 is good and should be sufficient enough.

We hope you enjoyed this article and video excerpt from the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD. Stay tuned for our next article and episode!

The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD is a 14 hour video workshop turning any Lightroom novice into a complete master of Lightroom 4 in no time! The Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop can be purchased by itself, or within the Lightroom 4 Workshop Collection which also contains our award winning and industry standard Lightroom 4 Preset System, as well as the Lightroom 4 Workflow System.