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Cropping for impact


This lesson will explore the impact of cropping an image from the inside out. By starting with only the head of the main subject, students will gradually expand the cropped area of an image until only what is important is included.


  • Students will crop a photo starting with the head and working outward.
  • Students will compare the impact an image has when it is cropped from the outside-in to the same image when it is cropped inside-out.

Common Core State Standards



Introduce precise, knowledgeable claim(s), establish the significance of the claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims and create an organization that logically sequences claim(s), counterclaims, reasons and evidence.


Develop the topic thoroughly by selecting the most significant and relevant facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose and audience.


Present information, findings and supporting evidence, conveying a clear and distinct perspective, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance and style are appropriate to purpose, audience and a range of formal and informal tasks.


One 55-minute class period



Slideshow: Cropping for impact

Rubric: Cropping for Impact

Digital access to one of the photos provided on the final two slides (or a local photo chosen by the photographer)

Photo editing software and computer access


Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 5 minutes

To capture students’ attention or lead into today’s lesson, consider a simple guiding question on the board such as “What is the purpose of cropping?” that students can answer with a quick discussion. (Common responses include things like “to eliminate bad parts or unnecessary elements in the photo,” “to get rid of a distracting background” or “to make your photo feel closer.”) As you make the connection to today’s lesson about cropping, remind students that getting closer physically during a photo shoot always is preferred to zooming closer with a lens — but sometimes cropping from the computer as part of the editing process can take a storytelling image and make it even stronger.

2. Direct instruction — 15 minutes

Use the slideshow to present the concept and cropping example. Students should take notes throughout the presentation as the teacher delivers the material and conducts informal checks for understanding. Notes for teachers are provided on most slides.

3. Application — 20 minutes

Copy and distribute digital copies of one of the photos from the final slides in the slideshow. (Alternatively, use a photo of your choosing.)

Students will open the chosen image in photo editing software (such as Adobe Photoshop). Instruct them to use the crop tool to crop the photo to the main subject’s head. They should use the “save as” function to save this cropped head so the original image is not overwritten. Next, students will return to the original image and starting with just the head, expand the crop to include minimally more information. Again, students should use the “save as” function to save this image without overwriting the original.

Assign students to repeat this process of adding more to the cropped image and “save as” until the image is expanded to include everything in the original frame, except perhaps small portions of the edge(s).

4. Assessment — 15 minutes

Students will gather their series of cropped images in a Google Doc or equivalent file. As they reflect on the set of photos, they will write a description of the choices made as the cropped images include more information. Instruct them to decide which version of the cropped image is best. They will write an argument describing why this version of the cropped image may have the most impact on a viewer, using evidence to support their claim.


If photo editing software is unavailable, the teacher can present a photo that is cropped four ways and ask students to write an argument for which one is the best crop. This also works as a modification for students who need more time or a simpler process. Similarly, students could be paired with a more advanced student for help with cropping or as a way to process the difference between each photos so they can analyze together.

Students who need more time to process their response can complete the written reflection as homework if necessary.

Advanced students or more skilled photographers can shoot a photo where they consciously recognize the different levels of cropping that could be done, then write the written analysis before editing instead of afterward.