Lightroom Ultimate Guide – Crop Overlay

As its name suggests, the Lightroom Crop Overlay is all about cropping your images. Whether you need to crop into an image, and/or you want to change the aspect ratio. The Crop Overlay Tool is the place to do it. This short article covers the main features in Crop Overlay to get the best out of the tool.

Lightroom Crop Tool

Lightroom Crop Tool

The Crop Overlay sits inside the Lightroom Develop Module, and is accessed by left-clicking the Crop Overlay icon located just under the Histogram. or by pressing the short-code R from your keyboard.

The most basic edit you can do with the tool is cropping in, so let’s look at that now.

Lightroom Crop Overlay

Cropping In

In the example image below, a picture of a Robin, we have a lot of dead space around the bird. By selecting the Crop Overlay, and then left clicking and dragging on our image, we can create a cropped in version of our subject.

Lightroom Crop Overlay

If you aren’t happy with your crop, either its location or size, you can either reduce, or enlarge it. To do this, you left-click and drag on the corners near the crop boundary. You use the same technique to rotate the crop, by left-clicking one of the the grab handles at the centre of each edge. Further, you can left-click and grab from the centre of the image to reposition your crop.

By default, all of this keeps exactly the same aspect ratio as your original image. But let’s say we want to change this.

Aspect Ratios

Lightroom Crop Overlay

From the Crop Overlay panel you left-click the text ‘Original‘, and this brings up a number of aspect ratio options in a pull-down menu.

Two of the ones I find most useful are 16×9 (1920 x 1080) and 3×4 (768 x 1024)

The 16×9 aspect ratio has gained significant presence over the last few years, particularly in landscape photography, as it:

  • Creates a panoramic looking shot.
  • Is useful for cropping dead zones from skies and/or foreground in wide-angle shots
  • Is the perfect size to display correctly on modern computer screens.

As an example, the landscape picture below is an image of Glen Noe in Scotland on a misty morning.

Example Image

From the Crop Overlay panel I selected 16×9 and positioned the crop frame, maintaining the full width of the image, but cropping out the top sky portion.

Lightroom Crop Overlay

Once happy with the crop, clicking Done resulted in the image below. So, in this case arguably both the original aspect ratio and the cropped ratio work just fine. But if you specifically wanted to post an image to maximise screen area (e.g. on, 16×9 is a great way to go.

Example Image

As alluded above, 3×4 is another great aspect ratio particularly for social media sites where a portrait style configuration looks more favourable on mobile phones.

For this example, let’s go back to our picture of a robin and select 4×3. When you have a picture in landscape aspect ratio, Lightroom only gives you other aspect ratio options in landscape. This is also true vice-versa for portrait photos. However, you can override this using the following method.


If you want a portrait aspect ratio in a landscape photo, select the landscape ratio e.g. 4x3 then press the key "X". This swaps the aspect ratio between landscape and portrait and vice-versa.
Lightroom Crop Overlay


The other useful adjustment on photos is horizon alignment. If you have a photo with a sloping horizon, you can just select the Crop Overlay tool, and rotate the crop until the horizon is horizontal. This technique will of course crop a little off the edges of your image, but assuming your misalignment is only minor, then the cropping will also be minor.

If you enjoyed this article, then please check out more of our Lightroom Ultimate Guide. Here are some which may interest you:

Lightroom Spot Removal
Lightroom Spot Removal

The Spot Removal tool enables you to remove minor blemishes from your digital images, such as dust spots and small unwanted objects.

Lightroom Adjustment Brush
Lightroom Adjustment Brush

The adjustment brush is one of the most versatile tools in Lightroom. This article explains how to use it, with worked examples.

Lightroom Gradient Masks
Lightroom Gradient Masks

This article explains how to apply a Gradient Mask to your Graduated Filter Effects.


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