I love my cell phone camera. It does pretty much everything I want it to do. Most of the time I feel it rivals my previous DSLR camera. There is however one problem all cell phone cameras have in common.Cell phone cameras have a fixed wide angle lens.

I recently bought the iphoneX. Even though it has a “telephoto” option, it is a far cry from a DSLR zoom lens. With a DSLR camera you have the option of changing the lens to suit the situation. You can also use a dedicated zoom lens which gives you the option of zooming in and out to get the composition just right. The only option to zoom in with the cell phone camera is to get closer to your subject. *Never zoom in with two fingers as I explain HERE.

More times than not I find that getting closer to my subject is not an option. This is why the editing crop tool is my number one edit for almost all my photos. Think of the crop tool as a picture frame. It is one of the easiest editing tools to use and can have the most impact. I believe most images taken with a cell phone can be improved by selectively cropping. Here are three reasons to use the editing crop tool.

1.Use the editing crop tool to get closer to your subject: 

This is the most common situation where I use the editing crop tool. While walking in Boston I spotted an image of old buildings being reflected in the glass of a new building under construction. I knew the reflections would make a great photo but unfortunately there was a tall construction fence blocking me from getting closer to the subject. I also didn’t want to include all the distracting construction debris which would do nothing for the final image. This is what the scene looked like as I shot over the fence.

Boston building reflections before using editing crop tool

As you can see from the original image the reflections were lost among all the surrounding elements cluttering the image. A quick use of the editing crop tool and I had the image that I wanted to convey. Had I not cropped and just kept the top photo those gorgeous reflections would not look nearly as striking.

reflections in building after using editing crop tool

2. Use the editing crop tool to change the photo orientation

This is another situation in which I use the crop tool. Often times I will take the image in one format and then want to crop into a square for Instagram or a vertical for my blog. This is a photo I took with my cell phone in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I originally shot it horizontally to show a panoramic view.

I decided later I wanted to post this photo on Instagram. Since Instagram is better suited to a square format I cropped it into a square.

View of the White Mountain

If I also wanted to use this same image either in a blog post or for Pinterest, then a vertical is a better choice.

White Mountains NH


I could also have simply taken the same photo three different ways but that would have more taken time then simply cropping in camera later.

3. Use the editing crop tool for Social Media

Studies show that most people are looking at Instagram on their phones. This means there is about 2.5″ of viewing space to dazzle someone with your image. No matter how wonderful the image is, a busy photo with lots of details is more difficult to view on a small phone screen. Below is a photo I took while at High Point Market. This is a perfectly fine image taken in one of the showrooms but there is a lot going on.

High Point show room with Louise Gaskill chandelier before using editing crop tool

Before I posted this on Instagram I used the crop tool to isolate my subject which was the beautiful hand made chandelier. By removing the other elements it made for a stronger image when viewed on a small phone screen.

vinatge matterials create new chandelier by Louise Gaskill after using editing crop tool

Now one thing that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention is that when you crop in there is always a loss of pixels which translate to loss of image quality. I honestly don’t worry much about this if I am only posting on social media. It is something to be aware of though if you crop in considerably and then decide to enlarge the image into a print. The more you crop in, the smaller the print will be in order to not sacrifice quality. There are lots of mathematical formulas online that address this but the rule to understand is that the more you crop the smaller the print will be.

I’d love to hear from you. Do you use the editing crop tool with your cell phone photos?

For more cell phone camera tips be sure to check out more of my cell phone camera blog posts:

3 Tips to prevent blurry cell phone shots

How to train your eye to take better photos

The one thing that all great photos have in common

Linda Holt | Interior Designer & iPhone Coach

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