Monday, September 8, 2008

Easy Photo Cropping Tool

Since we're not all graphic artists, wouldn't it be nice to have a few easy tools for basic editing of digital photos? Well, I've found two that are pretty easy to use for just about everyone. They're both online tools so you don't need any software downloads or installs. And best of all, they're free! Today, we'll start with just one of these tools.

EasyCropper - This one is pretty basic, although a bit odd. But after getting used to it, it works great! Be sure to view their 60 second "screencast" tutorial. Some things you need to know, however, are not mentioned anywhere on the website.

First, many digital cameras today take photos that are really, really big, both in file size (megabytes) and in vertical and horizontal dimensions. For now, I'm only going to talk about dimensions, because when you reduce dimensions, the file size automatically gets reduced as well. For instance, my camera takes photos that are about 2500 pixels wide by about 2000 pixels high (in screen resolution). That 80% ratio of height to width is fairly standard for your typical horizontal ("landscape") photo.

Now for an email or website, about the biggest you'll ever want a photo is about 640 width x 480 height. So, obviously, we all need to reduce our photo sizes, especially if we're sending a photo by email, or if we want to crop out something before we send it to our web designer or anyone else.

EasyCropper is pretty limited in what it can do, but it is still good for simple cropping. On the first screen you have to click the arrow for uploading the image you want to crop. On the next screen, you'll have to browse your hard drive for the image you want to crop. And you'll have to enter the desired height and width in pixels. Of course, most of us don't know exactly what size we want, so start by entering 640 height by 480 width. Of course, if you want a square, then put equal dimensions. You will be able to adjust the size of the cropped area, but not the ratio of width to height. If you put in a size that doesn't work, you can always start over with a new size.

Your photo will now be uploaded and you'll see a white box with your dimensions overlayed on your photo. IMPORTANT! Below the photo is a slider bar with a blue ball. Move the blue ball back and forth and the size of your white box cropping area will get larger and smaller.

Next, put your cursor inside the white box. Notice that the cursor changes to four arrows. When the four arrows are present, you can click, hold and drag your image behind the white box. It's kind of counter-intuitive because it seems like you should be able to drag the box, not the photo, but you'll get used to it. So drag your image around behind the white box until the part of the photo you want to keep is inside the box. Remember, you can still drag the blue ball on the slider bar to change the size of the box.

Play around with it and once you have the image as you want it, click "Crop It" down below the image and below the slider bar. But you're not done yet!

The next screen shows a down arrow and says "Your image is now ready for download". Click the arrow. You'll see your newly cropped photo on your screen in your browser. From here, place your cursor over the photo and right click. Choose the option that says "Save Picture As" or something similar. Select the folder location on your hard drive where you want to save your newly cropped image and click on "Save". You're done! Just be sure you remember where you saved the image on your computer. Oh, and you'll probably want to rename it before you save it so that it will be something meaningful to you. Also note that this will not affect your original image in any way. As long as you give the newly cropped photo a new name, your original will still be on your hard drive.

One more thing. I tried this in Firefox browser and it didn't work. So be sure to use Internet Explorer as your web browser when using EasyCropper.

Confusing? Not really. Try out EasyCropper and play around with it. It's really pretty easy to use. Soon, I'll introduce you to another online photo editor that is much more robust, but still easy to use.

Feel free to add comments or questions about this post using the links below! And feel free to send this on to a friend or colleague!

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