Question: I’m interested in producing, printing and framing more square photographs as opposed to the normal portrait or landscape ones we usually see and was wondering what the best way to approach this would be. I know the Content-Aware Scale tool in Photoshop handles this sort of thing and can alter the shape of a photo, but I’m not sure if it would be good in my situation. I capture primarily landscape and nature shots, so there’s detail from edge to edge in many of my shots, but I also take landscape shots that don’t have a lot of detail at the edges. Can this tool do a good job with my style of photography?
Answer: Using the Content-Aware Scale tool really depends on which type of photos you want to change the dimensions of. For the images with details along the edges that you don’t want stretched, I wouldn’t suggest using it. If you have skylines and that sort of thing though, those are what this tool was created for. It does a very good job at allowing you to avoid cropping your images and simply adding to them. I do this all the time.
I suggest you read though this post on using the Content-Aware Scale tool for a full explanation on all of this.
If you do decide to use this tool to reorient your photographs, these are the steps you should take to complete the process.
– Open your image in Adobe Photoshop and resize the canvas so it’s perfectly square. So if the canvas is currently 1000px wide by 800px tall, make it so it’s 1000px by 1000px square. After you do this, you’ll see some empty areas above and below the image. These can be either checker marked or white. It doesn’t matter what they look like. Their appearance will depend on your Photoshop settings.
– The Content-Aware Scale tool actually distorts part of the image to change its dimensions. If you have any areas that you don’t want distorted, you’ll need to protect them. The way to protect them is to first select the areas and then save the selection. Use the Quick Selection Tool or another like it to make your selection and then use the Select > Save Selection menu item to save your selection. When the Save Selection dialog appears, name your selection in the Name field and then click on the OK button to save it.
– Next, you’ll need to do the actually resizing. Use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select the area of the original image and then go to the Edit > Content-Aware Scale menu item and click. What you’ll get next is something that looks just like the Free Transform tool gives you. You’ll see a box with handles on it. Click on one of the handles and drag the top of the box so it’s flush with the top of the canvas and then do the same thing with the bottom. After you do this, you’ll see your entire photo distort. This is fine.
– Now you’ll need to correct your protected areas. While the transform box is still live (meaning, you haven’t clicked Enter to make the change permanent yet), go to the options bar and click on the Protect drop-down box. Inside this drop-down, you should see the protected area you named earlier. Click that name and the result will be that the area you selected earlier will snap back to its original form.
– The final step is to press the Enter key on your keyboard to accept your changes. And you’re done.
Essentially, the Content-Aware Scale tool is a glorified Free Transform tool. Both tools do the same exact thing, but the Content-Aware version allows for the protection of some areas, while the Free Transform one doesn’t. This is what makes it “Content Aware.”
If you have any questions, please ask. I love this stuff.