Cropping and Straightening

Imagine returning home from the family reunion, camera in hand, and waiting for the printed pictures to come back.  After a delay of at least hours, sometimes even days, the prints arrive, and in the most important picture–the family reunion shot–not only is there an ugly glaring neon sign in the background, but the tripod was off-balance, with one leg resting on a rock.  The entire crew seems to be seated on deck chairs on the Titanic, threatening to slide off the far left edge of the photo.

Don’t worry, there’s no need to call the entire family back for another reunion to re-shoot the picture.  What this photo needs is a bit of cropping and straightening.

Before photography went digital, both cropping and straightening were done in the printing process.  The printer would add a mask or frame to the picture to enclose only what he wanted to appear in the picture, and tilt (or just cut) the paper as necessary to make sure there was no cruise-ship leaning effect.

In today’s digital world of digital photography and editing software, it’s much easier to fix this sort of problem.  Scan the picture into your computer, load it into your favorite paint program, and it can be fixed in minutes. 

First, most photo editing programs have a grid or reference line feature.With a perfectly straight line to measure against, rotating the picture back onto dry land is child’s play.

And second, cropping comes naturally to photo programs as well.  Draw a box around the family–but not around the ugly sign–and crop away.  Be careful not to chop out any important details, like Uncle Vinnie’s ugly toupee and Aunt Marge’s red slippers.  And don’t forget to save a copy of the original, in case you need to do this again someday.  Then, email the corrected image to everyone who posed.

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