When the important part of your picture is too small, too far away, off-center, or inadvertently overshadowed by something else in the picture, it's time to crop that picture down to size. When you crop a picture, you cut off the unwanted parts, effectively zooming in on the part of the picture you want to keep. It's a great way to improve a picture's composition, after the fact.
Why Some Pictures Need Cropping
Cropping is one of the most important tools available to the digital photographer. It lets you fix pictures that are just a little off-centeras well as those where the subject is positioned too far in the background.
What types of pictures can benefit from cropping? Typically we're talking about photos in which you were either too far away from the subject or didn't center the subject properly in the shot.
If you crop too much out of a picture, you can end up with too few pixels left for a quality print. This is especially true if you shot at a low resolution, with a low-megapixel camera, or at a small photo size.
For example, our first photo is taken from the sidelines during a youth soccer tournament. You've taken hundreds of photos just like this; the problem is that you can't get close enough to the action, so you end up capturing more than you really need and hope that the real action ends up somewhere in the shot. What you really want is to zoom in on the action, which you can effectively do by cropping around that area of the picture.
Soccer action, taken too far away.
Our second photo shows another picture where the photographer didn't get quite close enough to the subjects. The two gentlemen here are well posed and look great in their tuxedos, but they're standing a little too far away from the camera. Now we need to zoom in on the photo to bring these two handsome gents front and centerwhich is where cropping comes in.
The groom and the best man, just a little too far away from the camera.
If necessary, you can fine-tune the area to be cropped by dragging the handles at the corners of the selection.
When you crop out those parts of the picture you don't want, you make the subject of the photo that much bigger in relation to what's left. It's kind of like blowing up that part of the picture. So, when you crop the first photo, you zoom in on the kids with the ball and bring them closer to the lens; when you crop the second photo, the two tuxedoed gents end up positioned front and center in the frame. And you do this all with Photoshop Elements's Crop tool, from either the Standard Edit or Quick Fix mode.