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Be Aware…Be VERY Content Aware! A Photoshop Tutorial

Good Morning! Tamara here back with another exciting, new tutorial!  For the past several weeks, I have been showing you how to use some of the different features of Photoshop and Photoshop Elements! From cool cropping ideas to using the lock feature in your layers panel, I have shown you some little known features that Photoshop has added to make it’s program user friendly! Today, I am here to show you a  feature that was introduced with the Photoshop CS4 version. It is one of the BEST and most useful options in Photoshop! IT, is the Content Aware Scale, and if you have never heard of it, or never used it, this will change the way that you scale your photos FOREVER!!!

There have been many times, when I was scrapping, that I had THE PERFECT photo, but, because of the way I shot it, it doesn’t fit the space I need it to fit into for the perfect layout! This often occurs when I am using a template and I am limited to the amount of area that I have to add my photo too! In the past, when I wanted to fix the problem, I used the transform tool (CTRL T) and just hoped for the best!  Sometimes, I would have to cut off  parts of my photo or crop it cleverly. There are times though, that I LOVE the way a photo is cropped and I don’t WANT to be clever with it, I just want it to add it onto my layout WITHOUT changing the actual crop of the photo!

Now, due to some extremely smart people at Adobe, I can scale a photo without having to worry about what it does to the people or image that I am trying to capture and scrap!

Here is the image I am working with!

When I check the image size (Image>Image Size) you can see that my document size is 5×7.

That is a great size but, for the purpose of this tutorial, I want to make it 5×8.  Begin by creating a new document. (File>New> and add your new photo dimensions.) Once your new layer is created, DRAG your original photo onto the new layer while holding the SHIFT key to keep it aligned properly.

In the above photo (I added the gray color just below the photo to illustrate the empty canvas space.)  You can see that the photo does not cover the entire canvas area, so we need to make the picture fit!  If you used the Transform Tool (CTRL T), like we did in the olden days, you could drag the photo diagonally and make it fit, but you would, in the process, get rid of some of the pretty scenery in the background and for this particular photo, I wanted to include the scenery!

You can see in the picture below, the original image and the image that was changed using the Transform Tool. I dragged the tool diagonally to try and get my subject to fit the new canvas.

This is an ok method, and it brought my subject closer, but I want to include more of the background scenery this drag and crop method was not the look I had in mind!

The other option, if you can even call it that, is to use the Transform key and drag the photo to the size of the new canvas using just the bottom box arrows.  This method, distorts the photo a LOT, however,  and is NOT really a good option.

You can see in the photo above, that using the Transform control to drag the photo down height wise  to fit the canvas size,  leaves her face misshapen and  elongated.

The perfect solution to making the photo fit the new canvas without making it looked warped,  is to use the Content-Aware scale.  Content Aware Scale, works in a VERY clever way! When you select the Content-Aware option, you are asking Photoshop to find a good compromise on your photo by maintaining the important parts of the picture. Photoshop determines what is the most important parts by finding the highest contrast points of the picture and maintaining their quality.  In my picture, the highest contrast point would be my daughter, so it will maintain her proportions as best it can, while fudging with the rest of the photo to make it fit the new canvas area!

First, select the image that needs to be adjusted in the layers palette. Go To Edit>Content-Aware Scale.

When you are working with scenes, you can grab one of the bounding box handles and drag the photo down and the photo will look perfect! . However, if you just drag the photo layer down with photo that highlights a person as it’s main subject, the results are less than desirable!

It actually leaves my sweet subject all misshapen and that is NOT good! So, Photoshop, being the ever powerful tool that it is, has a perfect little button to fix a photo with humans in it!

Select the photo layer in your layers palette, and go to Edit>Content-Aware Scale.At the top of the workstation, on the options panel, there is an icon of a person. This icon, when selected, will protect skin tones so that when the photo is being moves, anything that is a skin tone, is protected.

You can see, that just by clicking on the Protect Skin icon, it made a HUGE difference in the photo! In fact, it looks pretty good just by using this particular method.

My subject looks the same in the original photo and the new stretched photo! She is the right proportion, nothing in the background is cut out and I don’t have to crop her super close in order to get the photo size I needed!

Sometimes, after using the Protect Skin Icon, your photo will still look distorted. No matter what you try, you just don’t have enough extra space on your photo to cover the new canvas space you need without really distorting your subject.

You can see the difference in the original and the Content Aware Choice using the skin protect  method! Her hair and face are really badly distorted and if you included this photo on a layout…people will secretly make fun of you behind your back! This would be a BIG photography no-no!

However, Adobe gave us one more option to protect the subjects we love while still being able to manipulate the photo! Select the photo layer in your layer’s palette. Select the Quick Selection Tool (Keyboard Shortcut W)  in the Tools palette.

At the top of the workstation, in the Options Bar, make sure that your Quick Selection tool is set to ADD to the selection by clicking on icon with the + symbol.

Now, on your photo, draw a selection around your subject. If you select part of the photo that you do not want or need selected, click on the paintbrush icon with the – symbol and paint over the part of the photo that you DO NOT want selected.

When you are done, your subject should be surrounded by marching ants. Go to Select>Save Selection

When the Save Selection dialogue box pops up, name the selection and press OK.

Hit CTRL+D to delselect.

Now, go to Edit>Content-Aware Scale. At the top of the workstation, in the Options Panel, locate the Protect drop down menu. Select the file name you just created.

Once you have selected the area you want to protect, you can drag the photo to its new size.

This is the part I truly find AMAZING and this is why I love to work with this particular tool. You can see a few minor differences in her hair wisps, but the rest of her is the EXACT SAME!! Now, however, I have a lovely off-centered photo that follows the Rule of Thirds and is very scrap worthy!

The whole procedure takes less than five minutes, and you get a photo that is scrap worthy!

I hope you enjoyed this weeks tutorial! I know you won’t believe how easy it is until you actually TRY hurry up, open up Photoshop and have at it! You will LOVE what it can do for your photo!

Have a great week!


comments +

  1. […] from : HERE cool-cropping, elements, exciting, how to, past, photoshop, several-weeks, the-different, […]

  2. Vera says:

    Thank you so much, this is a fantastic feature!

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I'm Mye De Leon

I'm a mom with a desire to give the best for her family and turned a lettering hobby into a multi6-figure business. These days, I eat strategy for breakfast and turn other businesses into successful empires.

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I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.

I'm Mye


My business is to help your business generate more revenue so you can be who you want to be.