Photoshop Elements’ Recompose tool is a clever function that allows you to alter the ratio of your images without distorting key details. In this tutorial we show you how it works.
We all know how frustrating it can be when it comes to displaying our favourite photographs and they don’t match our chosen print size, or are the wrong ratio for a frame we want to use.
Cropping won’t always solve the problem, as you might lose interesting detail at the edges of the frame, or end up with an image that feels unbalanced or doesn’t conform to the rule of thirds – perhaps because you’re left with just a thin sliver of sky.
Elements introduced a Recompose tool back in version 8, and this enables you to make ‘content-aware’ transformations.
The tool gives you the power to reshape an image, whether it’s by changing the ratio, extending the canvas or reducing the gap between subjects for a tighter composition.
The clever thing about the tool is that you can select areas that you don’t want the tool to distort, and these will be protected; you can also highlight areas that you don’t mind being distorted or lost.
For this tutorial we’ve got a landscape shot that we want to resize to a more panoramic 16×9 ratio, but we don’t want to stretch or squash the river, so the Recompose tool is ideal for the job.
How to use Photoshop Elements’ Recompose tool
01 Crop to ratio
Download our start files and follow along! Open recompose_start.jpg. There are a couple of ways of recomposing our scene. First, select the Crop tool and choose 16x9in from the ratio menu. Drag out a crop within the confines of the canvas, then drag the handles to extend the box outside the canvas so the full height of the image is included. Take the Recompose tool, select the Mark for Protection brush and paint over areas you want to protect, such as the river.
02 Stretch to fit
Next take the Mark for Removal brush, and paint over the areas that you don’t mind being removed or distorted, such as the distant fields and the edges of the sky. A green overlay indicates the areas you want to protect, and a red overlay indicates the unprotected areas. Now drag out the left and right handles of the bounding box to stretch the image until it fits the 16×9 ratio, and hit Return to apply the transformation.
03 Mark it up again
The other way of recomposing an image doesn’t require you to crop it first. Reopen recompose_start.jpg, or just undo the previous edit. Select the Recompose tool, and paint over the areas you want to protect with the Mark for Protection brush as before, then paint over the areas you don’t mind being distorted or lost with the Mark for Removal brush.
04 Auto recompose
Select the 16x9in option from the ratio menu, and this time the tool will automatically recompose the image to fit the selected ratio. Use the Threshold slider to fine-tune the transformation and minimise distortion: the lower the value, the less the image will be distorted. Click the green tick button, or hit Return, to apply the transformation. You crop the image slightly to tidy up the edges if you need to.
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