One of the things I like the most about Lightroom is the non-destructive nature of editing, of course sometimes that can come back to bite you, but most of the time it is the best thing since sliced bread.

Cropping is another place where I really love the non-destructive nature of Lightroom.  Some might argue that the work-flow is a little strange, where they wish the crops would apply to the original, but lets not get into a discussion about the merits of this.

So we all have used the crop tool, it looks like this [insert crop tool image], it sits in the top right or Lightroom, pretty easy, by default gives us a grid view, the ‘thirds rule’ [check this].  If you are an infrequent user like me, who never really explored the documentation, or read any books about Lightroom, you may not know this, but you can change the grid to other overlays.

Keyboard Shortcuts

O Cycle through the overlays (O not zero)
Shift + O Change the orientation.
Menu Location Tools -> Crop Overlay Guide

The supported overlays are:

Grid

Really this one is most useful for getting things straight.  Does not really (that I know of) have any magical compositional properties, and is the default overlay.  Looks a little something like this.

Lightroom Crop Grid Overlay

An example of the grid overlay in crop mode in Lightroom 3.2

The remainder of overlay modes are intended to aid you with your compositional cropping. For a great blog about these ratios see here : http://aphotocontributor.typepad.com/aphotocontributor/2008/10/the-golden-ratio.html

Thirds

Unless you have had your head in the sand, you will have heard about the ‘Rule Of Thirds‘. If not, you soon will.

Thirds

An example of the Thirds (rule of thirds) overlay in crop mode in Lightroom 3.2

Diagonal

Lightroom Diagonal Crop

An example of the diagonal crop overlay

Triangle

Lightroom Triangle Crop Overlay

An example of the triangle crop overlay.

Golden Ratio

You can read more about the golden ratio (and golden spiral by following the links to wikipedia, it can explain all the math a lot better than I ever could :)

Golden Ratio

An example of the Golden Ratio overlay in crop mode in Lightroom 3.2.

Golden Spiral

Lightroom 3.2 Golden Spiral Crop Overlay

An example of the golden spiral overlay.

For an image, such as these dolphins that were shot at my first trip to SeaWold Australia, using the crop tool, we might (and I say might) be able to turn an average looking image into a more compelling composition. While we could argue about the best way I could crop these images, for the sake of this I will just pick a couple that to me stood out.

An example of applying the GoldenSpiral crop overlay, in a square 1:1 ratio

An example of applying the Golden Spiral crop overlay, in a square 1:1 ratio

An example of a triangle crop in Lightroom

An example of a triangle crop in Lightroom

An example of how the crop might look with the thirds rule

An example of how the crop might look with the thirds rule