Eliminate Printed Picture Clipping by Resizing your Photos

Now that the summer is ending, what to do with the thousands of vacation pictures filling up your iPhoto library? While pictures on the computer screen are nice, its not the same as printing them out and creating a photo album. If you’ve ever printed out digital photographs, you’ll know that sometimes the pictures get cut off or cropped during the printing process. This leaves heads cut off, missing details and sometimes a completely different picture than you intended.

One way to avoid this is to resize your photos ahead of time, eliminating the dreaded auto-crop. You can do this for free with OS X and Preview. Here’s how:

Why do they have to crop pictures?

Film cameras work on a picture size ratio of 3:2. Digital cameras work at 4:3. The most common photo size is the 4 x 6 print which is a 3:2 ratio. What this means is that part of your photo is going to get cut when you print a 4 x 6 print. Some photo printers are smart enough to print the entire picture and leave a wider border to even out the difference. Some aren’t. Even worse, most photo printing houses will crop (cut) the picture one way only. This “cookie-cutter” approach is what leads to some pictures not looking quite right.

To get around this, you need to edit or crop your photos to the proper ratio on your own. This way, you decide what gets chopped or you can simply add a border around the photo to even out the difference.

Let’s look at the differences to know how much gets cut and how much of a border to add. We’ll look at the most common picture print format of 4×6.

Note: For print, make sure your images are of the highest quality possible for your camera. What looks good on the computer screen and emails perfectly will not look nice on paper. Use the largest size your camera can do with the least compression. When you edit a JPEG picture, you are recompressing and will reduce quality. Save works in progress as the larger TIFF format before final compressing.

Adjusting for the 4×6 Photo Print:

Since most cameras work on the 4:3 ratio and 4×6 prints are a 3:2 ratio, we need to figure out how much of the photo will be clipped. The easiest way to do this is with a quality photo editor. For those who do not have one, we’ll use Apple’s free surprisingly powerful Preview.

Note: This will only work with the Preview bundled with 10.5 Leopard.

1. Open Text Edit and create a new document.

2. Take a picture of the white area by pressing Apple+Shift+4, then Click and drag the box to make a small picture of the white area.

Note: Make sure the resulting picture is only a small white box.

3. Open the new picture (called Picture1.png) in Preview.

4. Go to the Tools menu bar item and choose Adjust Size.

Photo Resizing in OS X with Preview

5. Change the Resolution to 300 and Press OK.

Photo Resizing in OS X with Preview

6. Choose Adjust Size for the Tools menu again.

7. Uncheck the checkbox next to “Scale Proportionally”.

Note: For some reason you can not adjust the resolution and the size at the same time. The size will not stick. That’s why we have to do this twice.

8. Adjust the size so the Width is 6 inches and the Height is 4 inches.

Photo Resizing in OS X with Preview

9. Press OK.

10. Verify the new image is the proper size and resolution by going back to the Adjust Size tool and checking the sizes. If everything is OK, press Cancel.

11. Save this file by choosing Save As.. and changing the format to JPEG.

Photo Resizing in OS X with Preview

12. Open your Photo in Preview.

13. Go to the Adjust Size tool and change the width to 6 (for 4×6 prints)
Note: Do not press OK yet.

14. Notice that the height is more than 4. This means some of the photo will be clipped.

15. For a border around the photo, adjust the height to 4. Leave the width alone.

16. If you would like to clip some of the photo, choose 6 for the width.
Note: Once you get the hang of this technique, you can vary the sizes of your clippings.

17. Press OK.

18. Choose “Select All” from the Edit menu bar.

19. Choose “Copy” from the Edit menu bar.

20. Open the first image from this tutorial, the plain white box.

21. Choose “Paste” from the Edit menu bar.

22. Click on the Move tool in the toolbar.

23. Drag the photo over the white box to adjust the borders.
Note: If you are unable to move the photo around or you make a mistake, just undo the Paste and start over.

24. When finished, choose “Save As..” and save as the best quality JPEG that Preview can create.

25. Your picture will now fit a 4×6 print exactly the way you want it to.

I’d definitely recommend practicing this technique a bit before actually sending the pictures to a printer but as you can see, you aren’t restricted to what they choose. You can adjust sizes, add a border to the top and bottom, and clip out unwanted areas of the photograph. What this technique does is put you in control of how your picture will look when printed. This quick technique can also be applied to 8×10 and 5×7 photo prints or any other size you wish. While superior photo editing programs can also do this, I chose Preview as it is freely bundled with OS X.

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