I wrote a post a few days ago where I expressed my affection for square photographs. Since I made that post, I’ve looked around at even more examples of this type of post-processing and I’m so glad I wrote what I did. Square is where it’s at. I received a reply from a reader who praised photographer Michael Kenna and I was blown away after viewing his work. If you’ve never seen it, you should really check it out. So much is in black and white and so much is square. When visiting Michael’s site, click the photo on the homepage to enter and then click the Image Archive link. Or, you can simply click the link in the previous sentence. His stuff is so good. Now I’m jealous.
In today’s post, I’d like to offer you a few tips that may assist you in your own square journey. If you’re interested in “reshaping” an image that was previously captured using a landscape or portrait orientation, I may be able to help. Adobe Photoshop offers a tool that’s called Content-Aware Scale and this tool has the ability to not only stretch or elongate areas of an image, but to protect other areas that you don’t want touched. The results are truly remarkable, so I’m quite excited to share this with you.
Now, before I begin, I must warn you that working with this tool is only appropriate for certain types of photos. As I mentioned above, there is a bit of distortion that occurs, so you shouldn’t use the method I’ll share below with highly detailed edges or edges that are meant to portray reality accurately. If you’re unsure about what I’m referring to, just take a look at the demo image I’m using down below. This image is just perfect.
For today’s post, I’ll be using a photo of the cutest little puppy you ever will see. Please notice the sky above and the grass below. Both of these areas won’t be affected terribly as I work through the process of making this image square. Mind you, I won’t be cropping the sides; I’ll actually be adding to the top and the bottom.
Resizing the Canvas
The first thing I’ll do to reshape this image is to resize the canvas. Since my goal is to make the photo square, I’ll head up to the Image > Canvas Size and change the Height value from 1440 pixels to 1920 pixels, so it matches the Width value. When I’m finished, I’ll click the OK button.
This is what the file looks like now. Do you see how I added space above and below the original image?
Protecting the Dog
The process I’m showing you in today’s post actually stretches an image so it fits into a new shape. The problem with simply using the Free Transform tool for this is that the tool I just mentioned doesn’t do anything to protect objects and elements you don’t want distorted in your photo. There no intelligence, if you will. When using the Content-Aware Scale tool, you can actually take objects in the image into account and those objects won’t be distorted at all.
To protect the dog in the image I’m working with, all I need to do is select him. To do this, I’ll use the Quick Selection Tool. I don’t need to be perfect with the selection either. All I need to do is make the rough selection so the dog is ignored in the following steps down below.
Just to be sure I selected the entire dog, I’ll expand the selection by ten pixels using the Select > Modify > Expand menu item.
Saving the Selection
Now that I have my selection, I’ll need to save it. To do this, I’ll head up to the Select > Save Selection menu item and click.
When the Save Selection dialog opens, I’ll name the selection Beagle and then click the OK button to save the selection into the Channels panel. It’s not important that you know where the selection is saved, but I thought I’d mention that.
Changing the Scale of the Photo
The next step I’ll need to take is to go about the actual scale adjustment. I have the dog selected and that selection saved, so I’ll now need to deselect my selection. I’ll use the Select > Deselect menu item for that.
After that, I’ll use the Rectangular Marquee Tool to select just the photo area of the canvas. Then, I’ll go to the Edit > Content-Aware Scale menu item and click. Doing this will activate a transform bounding box. I’ll drag the top center handle to the top of the canvas and the bottom center handle to the bottom of the canvas. Since I’m using the latest version of Photoshop, I’ll need to hold down the Shift key on my keyboard so the proportions aren’t locked. Adobe seems to have reversed that little feature.
As I stretch the image, I’m noticing something. The dog is being stretched too, even though I thought I protected him. Take a look. See how long he’s looking?
The reason for this distortion is because even though I selected the dog and saved that selection, I haven’t yet protected it. To do this, I’ll need to go up to the options bar and click on the Protect drop-down box and then, when I see my saved selection named beagle, I’ll click on that.
Doing this will immediately snap the dog back to its original state and everything will look great. I’ll press the Enter key on my keyboard to accept the changes and then I’ll deselect the layer. Take a look at the final image.
I’d say that looks pretty darn good!
I hope I clearly explained how to use the Content-Aware Scale tool in Adobe Photoshop. If you have any questions regarding this post or topic, please let me know in the comment section down below or in the Photoshop forum. Thanks for reading!