If you’ve ever dealt with a professional print fulfillment labs and had a client order a wallet-sized image, you may have run into the Double Crop Conundrum. The standard wallet size is 2.5” x 3.5 “. Conveniently, it shares the same aspect ratio as the venerable 5×7 size print. At first blush, that makes cropping for the wallet-sized print a snap. Right? Wrong! Here’s why:
Setting the Lightroom™ Crop tool to the 5×7 aspect ratio and applying a crop seems like the correct thing to do. Well, it is but it isn’t the last step in the process. We will go ahead and apply this crop and then export the image for upload to our photo lab. In my particular case, this is White House Custom Color.
The resulting photo is the correct proportions and size for the lab to create the wallet-sized prints. Here’s the problem: photo labs don’t print a wallet one-at-a-time like larger size prints. They gang them up into groups of eight and put them on a larger sheet for printing.
Here is a visual example of what your photo lab is actually printing. It is the classic 8-Up wallet print. Printing wallets in this fashion is much more efficient. The problem comes when the wallets need to be separated into individual pictures. No Customer, Photographer or Lab wants to hand cut these photos so it is done by machine using a die cutting device that quickly punches out the individual wallets. This is where the second crop comes into play.
When you load up your image in your lab’s upload platform and select the wallet, this gray box appears, superimposed over your image preview. This is the die cutter’s safe line. The precision of die cutting a sheet of wallets is such that anything within the boundaries of this gray line is subject to being summarily trimmed off. Anything outside the line, well you can just plan on kissing that goodbye. That is the second crop issue with the Approximate Die Cut overlay. If you cropped too tightly in Lightroom while prepping your file, well, back to the drawing board for a recrop and the hope you have enough material left in the original image.
Suppose there was a way in Lightroom to preview the Approximate Die Cut line before you exported your finished crop… you are in luck – there is.
It is possible to assign a graphical overlay on your image within the Loupe and Develop views within Lightroom. This lets you put a graphic such as a logo, a team picture template, a magazine cover or even a cropping guide on top of your photo so that you can insure your layout is what you want before you commit it to a file.
In your Lightroom menu, go to View>Loupe Overlay>Choose Overlay Image> and navigate to a PNG file with transparency that you’ve created for just such an occasion. Here is the PNG file I am using for this overlay.
I created this file in CorelDraw and exported it as a PNG with transparency enabled. It was built on the 5×7 aspect ratio and should work on all 8-Up wallet prints.
Going to View>Loupe Overlay>Show or hitting the [Ctrl/CMD]+[Opt/Alt]+[O] keyboard short cut cycles the overlay on and off. Now you can adjust your crop in the Develop module and compare your results to your lab’s die cut line and get it just right before exporting the file.
You controlled the first crop where you fine-tune the composition and the edges. Now you can control the second crop too (within the boundaries of the approximation of the guide) and ensure that finger don’t become amputated, hair doesn’t get flat-topped or vital elements aren’t squeezed against an unfeeling machine-cut edge.
Note that when you are actually cropping the image, the crop overlay supersedes your Loupe Overlay until the crop is finished. The guide will disappear and not return until your crop is complete. You may have to go back and forth a bit but the visualization of the overlay will help you create the perfect sized and composed file for printing your wallet.
The PNG File above can be clicked upon and saved to your own computer for use in Lightroom. Consider that a free gift from the Cropist. Install it in your Lightroom catalog and never suffer from the Double Crop Conundrum again.
Rikk Flohr © 2015