Changing the crop orientation in Lightroom 2

[Note: This post was written for Lightroom 2, so if you are using Lightroom 3 you can now just press the X key to achieve the same end. Thanks to Sas for the nudge to update. -Rob]

There is an aspect of the Lightroom crop tool that is not as intuitive as it could be (based on how often the question gets asked), and that is how to change the orientation of the crop rectangle.

Let’s say you have a photo with a landscape orientation, but you want to create a portrait orientation crop within it. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Select the photo and press R to jump to the Crop tool.
  2. Choose the aspect ratio you want to be applied.
  3. Close the lock icon to “lock in” that aspect ratio (press A to close/open the lock).
  4. Grab a corner resize handle and drag to the opposite corner along the longest edge until the orientation of the crop rectangle flips.
Crop Aspect Ratio

Since the aspect ratio is locked in, as soon as you decrease the length of the long side to the point that it is no longer the longest side the orientation has to switch to maintain the aspect ratio. Once the orientation has changed you can re-position the photo for best composition. Believe me it is easier to do than explain! Give it a try.

9 thoughts on “Changing the crop orientation in Lightroom 2”

  1. You’re right it is easy to do. When you re-position the image the crop stays fixed and the image moves “below” the crop.

  2. What am I doing wrong? I check 2×3/4×6 and if the lock is unlocked, I lock it. I expect the lock to keep me in 2×3/4×6 aspect ratio.

    It doesn’t.

    As soon as I start cropping it reverts back to ‘original’ and let’s me just crop freestyle. Well, that defeats the whole purpose of the lock?? (And the lock is still locked the whole time by the way.)

    Frustrating. 🙁

    1. Hi Steven,

      That sounds buggish. It may be that the original aspect ratio is also 2:3, which is a common aspect ratio for digital images, but it shouldn’t change back to Original after you start cropping. Are you using the latest version of Lightroom to ensure you’ve gotten the latest round of updates?

      You might also try replacing the preference file, which can sometimes fix general odd behavior:

  3. Sas, that is certainly true, but that shortcut is new to Lightroom 3. When this post was written in April 2009 it did not exist in Lightroom 2. That said, I think I’ll add a note to clarify in the post above for anyone reading in the future. Thanks!

  4. Be Careful!!! Be sure to click on the Crop Overlay BEFORE you press “X”. If you are not in the Crop mode hitting “X” tells LR “REJECT” this photo!!! (I use LR3.2)


    1. Yes, this is true. The X key does double-duty. Though in the crop tool its only function is to switch the orientation of the crop rectangle, so without a rectangle showing there is no point in pressing X. Should the X key be hit accidentally you can always press U to unflag or CMD/Ctrl+Z to undo.

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