Print Without a Crop


Today’s Question: How can you send images to labs so they do not get cropped?

Tim’s Quick Answer: The first step is to crop the image precisely the way you want it printed, and to resize the image to fit within the final print size. Even better, if possible you should employ a “canvas” for the image so that the cropped image fits completely onto the canvas, with that canvas sized based on the actual final print size.

More Detail: When you print an image that is not cropped to the same aspect ratio as the paper you’re printing to, you will have two options for how the image will fit on the printed page. You can either fit the image within the limits of the paper size, or crop the image to fill the available space.

For example, let’s assume you have retained the original aspect ratio for an image when cropping, but will be printing to an 8″x10″ sheet of paper. For simplicity, we’ll assume a print where the image extends all the way to the edge of the paper. At the original aspect ratio, you will have likely an image that is sized to about 6.7-inches by 10-inches.

In other words, your options are to have empty space of about 0.67 inches on both sides of the shorter dimension of the print, or to crop the image so you are losing one inch at both ends of the longer dimension of the print. Of course, as noted in today’s question, the intent is to not have the image cropped based on the print size.

So, the first approach would be to simply size the image so it will fit on the intended paper size. For an 8″x10″ sheet of paper, for example, you might resize to 10-inches on the longer dimension (or likely a little smaller to provide some space around the print), letting the shorter dimension fall wherever it does based on the cropped aspect ratio. In other words, you simply resize the image to fit the size of the paper it will be printed on. Then you would need to make sure to communicate to the print lab that you want the image printed to fit the page, not enlarged to fill the entire printable area of the page.

You can help improve the chances that the image will indeed be printed without cropping, however, if you enlarge the canvas size for the image based on the paper size that image will be printed to. For example, if you have an image cropped and resized to dimensions of 6.67 inches by 10 inches, you could enlarge the canvas size to a full 8″x10″ so the image will print properly on the paper size to be used for the print.

In Photoshop it is quite easy to enlarge the canvas after cropping and resizing the image you are preparing for print. Simply choose Image > Canvas Size from the menu, and set the desired dimensions.

Lightroom doesn’t offer a simple way to accomplish this same task, but one approach you could use would be to configure a print in the Print module, and then save the result as a JPEG image for printing. You could configure the paper size and place a single cell on the page to print at the desired dimensions, and then make sure the “Zoom to Fill” checkbox in the Image Settings section of the right panel is turned off. When you have configured the print as desired, in the Print Job section of the right panel you can choose “JPEG File” from the Print To popup, and then click the “Print to File” button at the bottom of the right panel to save the print layout as a JPEG image that can then be sent to the lab.