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How to Level and Crop Digital Photos

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A simple technique for altering image orientation of Digital Photos:

It’s happened to all of us. We come across a great photo shot, and while framing the image, pay more attention to the framing parameters than the leveling of the image. After downloading the digital photo and realizing we have a world class photographic image, we also realize the image is way out of level. If the digital photo just had a level horizon, it would certainly be an award winning photographic image. How can this be fixed?

There is a very simple technique that can be used to level a digital photo, or to change the basic orientation of the image using any quality image editing software. For this article, the techniques described will be with using Adobe Photoshop CS. The procedure names and locations may be slightly different in other image editing software applications, but the basic techniques will be very similar.

This digital imaging technique should be used with the original image resolution of the digital photo. This way, the original image will not be resampled or re-sized. You should re-save the leveled file as an archived or library file at the digital photo’s native pixel resolution. If you ever think you will want photo enlargements of the digital photo, this will yield the finest quality print results. The steps described below will include procedures to maintain the digital photo’s original pixel resolution.

Step One:
The first step is to open the original digital photo file in Photoshop. For this example, I have selected a basic, not World Class for sure, digital photo that is obviously out of level and would be a much better image if it were just straightened up a bit.

Photo to level

Step Two:
The next thing to do is to place the photo on a background that is a few inches larger, on all sides of the image, than the photo. To do this, you must create a layer with the photo. Follow these steps:
Click – Select > All then Edit > Copy
Close the photo window.
Click – File > New – A New File window will open with the copied photo’s parameters.
Leave the Resolution the same, and for the width and height select inches. Add a couple inches to the values already present. This will make the background larger than the photo. With higher resolution photos, you may need to increase the background size a little more to accommodate the degree of leveling needed.
Click – OK then Edit > Paste
The photo will be layered over the background creating a new image file. You should have your “layers” window open and make sure the photo’s layer is selected. After you paste the photo on the background it will be automatically selected. To open the layers window:
Window > Layers

Step Three:
Now you need to bring a guide line over the photo as a perfectly horizontal reference. To do this, select the “move” tool from the tool palette (top right tool), and drag a guide line from the top horizontal ruler. Place over the photo at a point where the reference will work best for you when leveling.

Leveling digital photo step 3

Step Four:
Now you need to “rotate” the photo until the image looks good to you in reference to the guide line. Make sure the photo’s layer is selected in the “layers” window. It will be automatically selected after you paste the photo on the background.
Click – Edit > Transform > Rotate
A dashed box will appear around the photo. From the corner of the photo and dashed box, drag the image in a circular motion until it appears to be level with the reference guide line and when it looks good to you, click the check mark at the top right to set the rotation. If you want to redo the leveling, click Edit > Undo, and repeat the steps above.

Leveling digital photo step 4

Step Five:
After rotating the photo to the point where it appears level to you, it needs to be cropped to square it up. You need to use guide lines again to set the parameters of the crop. Simply drag guide lines from the vertical and horizontal rulers with the “move” tool, to the innermost corners of the rotated photo.

Leveling digital photo step 5

Step Six:
To properly crop the photo to the guide lines you have set, you need to do a couple things. First, you need to make sure the crop will go just to the guide lines. Do this by clicking View > Snap to > Guides. The crop box will then snap right to the guide lines when you drag the crop box. Second, you need to make sure you do not resample the original photo file when cropping. Select the “crop” tool from the tools palette. In the crop parameter fields at the top of the screen, click the “clear” button. When setting the crop, the original photos resolution will remain unresampled.
Select crop tool > Clear crop parameters > Drag crop box to guide line corners >
Click check mark to set the crop. Your photo is now leveled and cropped. To save as a new image file, “flatten” the layers, Layers > Flatten then File > Save as.

Leveling digital photo step 6

This simple technique can be used not only for leveling photos, but also for making artistic changes to the basic orientation of any digital photo. This method will maintain the original pixel resolution of the image file. Any photo enlargement, photo enhancement or other applied functions should be performed after using this technique. You can visit the following link for further in-depth information concerning photo enlargement and digital photo processing.

Talk in person with a REAL Photo Printing Expert!…
Customer Service: 719 314-7833