Crop Overlay

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Today’s Question: In Lightroom, when I crop a photo and then click and drag it to center it in the crop as best I can, I see a curving line shaped similar to a nautilus shell curve.  I don’t remember seeing that before. What is it, and what is it used for?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The spiral you’re seeing is one of the overlay options for the Crop tool in Lightroom, which can be helpful for refining the way you crop a given photo. You can choose an overlay option from the Tools > Crop Guide Overlay submenu, and change visibility options from the Tools > Tool Overlay submenu.

More Detail: Lightroom includes several different overlay options for the Crop tool, which include Grid, Thirds, Diagonal, Triangle, Golden Ratio, Golden Spiral, and Aspect Ratios. These can be helpful when you want to crop an image with a reference to one of the “rules” of composition, such as the “Rule of Thirds”.

From the Tools > Tool Overlay submenu you can choose Auto Show if you want to overlay to appear only when you are adjusting the crop bounding box. You can also choose Always Show or Never Show if you want to turn the display on or off at all times when working with the Crop tool.

You can select a specific overlay from the Tools > Crop Guide Overlay submenu, or you can press the letter “O” (as in “overlay”) on the keyboard to cycle through the available options. For overlay options that can be presented in different positions (such as the Golden Spiral, which can be rotated to begin in any corner, for example) you can press Shift+O on the keyboard to cycle through those variations.