The Aspect Ratio settings explained

The Aspect Ratio settings explained

This post was updated on December 10th, 2020

The Lock

The Lock indicates if the Aspect Ratio that you have selected is constrained or not. You can also check its status by opening the Settings Menu. A checkmark before the Constrain Aspect Ratio entry means the same as if the Lock is closed.

Settings Menu with Crop relevant section marked

The Crop Overlay Tool's Aspect Ratio settings explained – Aspect Ratio Settings
Settings Menu with Crop relevant section marked

How to open/close the Lock

There are three ways of changing the Lock’s status while you are in the Develop Module of Adobe ® Lightroom.

  1. Click on the Lock symbol to open/close it
  2. Chose Settings -> Constrain Aspect Ratio to open/close the Lock
  3. Press <A> to change its status

When you first open the Crop Frame Tool, the Lock of the Aspect section should be closed. Also, the Aspect Ration should be set to Original or As Shot.

What does a constrained Lock mean?

If you create a freehand crop with an open Lock, it means that you can draw whatever size you want as an overlay. This new size does not have to adhere to the previously set Aspect Ratio.

If you choose to constrain your Aspect Ratio by closing your lock, you cannot draw in a new aspect ratio. Your resulting photograph might get larger or smaller, though. Depending on in which direction you are dragging the sides. However, the ratio between the upper and the left side stays the same.

Let’s have a brief look at that in an example.

Open the Crop & Straighten Tool for a photograph and ensure that the Lock is closed. If you now change the size of the crop overlay, it will have the same aspect ratio as before. Notice how, if you move the upper side, the other sides move accordingly. If you move the top side downward, the left and right side are shortened, but they also move inward, reducing the length of the upper and lower sides.

However, if you open the lock and move the upper side downward, the other side’s movement is restricted. The right and the left side will shorten, but the bottom stays unchanged.

A closed Lock means that your changes will adhere to the same aspect ratio, but you can still have a larger/smaller image afterward. The closed Lock only protects the aspect ratio, as long as you do not choose a different one from the selection list.

Closed Lock and Aspect Ratios

Let us assume you have a photo of 8000×6000 pixels. This size means its aspect ratio is 8:6 or 4:3. As long as the lock is closed, you can change the size of your image to, for example, 400×300 pixels or 1500×2000 pixels. Both of these adhere to selected the 4:3 ratio. However, a closed lock will prevent you from changing the size of your image to, for example, 1000×1000 pixels or 400×500 pixels. This because these do not adhere to the locked 4:3 aspect ratio.

To change to a new Aspect Ratio, you need to either open the lock or select a new one from the selection list.

Now, we have had a look at quite a lot of settings regarding the Aspect Ratio. Next month, we will still have to address some more settings. However, we will also look into more practical examples.

All trademarks and copyrighted items mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

I am in no way affiliated with any of the products used in this post-processing process. I do not receive any kind of compensation for this article, it was neither offered nor asked for.


All photos taken by Wiebke Schröder/Lille Ulven Photography.

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