How to Uncrop Square Format Images in Lightroom

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Thanks for reading! Andrew.

How to uncrop square format photos in Lightroom

Nowadays most new digital cameras give you the option of selecting an aspect ratio other than that native to the camera’s sensor. Many readers will be aware that I’m a big fan of the square format. So when I bought my Fujifilm X-T1 camera I was looking forward to trying this feature out.

Uncropped, the photos from this camera have a 3:2 aspect ratio, the same as 35mm digital SLRs and 35mm film. But you can also choose from 16:9 (a panoramic aspect ratio) and 1:1 (the square format).

The benefit of cameras like the X-T1 with electronic viewfinders is that the display adjusts itself to the selected aspect ratio, a great aid to composition.

If you shoot Raw (which you should) even though you see a square image in the viewfinder (on a mirrorless camera) and on playback (all cameras) you still have the entire Raw file to play with. Take it into Lightroom and you can undo the crop if you need to.

In theory anyway. In practice it’s not so simple. To start, if you have a Nikon or a Panasonic camera, the Raw file itself is cropped, and there’s no way to get the missing information back.

With other cameras the information is there, but take the cropped photo into the Develop module, open the Crop Overlay tool and what happens? There is no way to undo the crop and return to the camera’s native aspect ratio. The information is there, but Lightroom ignores it and doesn’t let you undo the crop.

Luckily, there are two solutions.

The first is to convert the Raw photo to DNG when you import it. Lightroom retains the square format but lets you undo the crop. If you’re in the habit of converting your Raw files to DNG when you import them, something I recommend, the problem ceases to exist. This is by far the simplest method.

The second is to install Adobe’s DNG Recover Edge Plug-In. Click the link to go to the download page – it only takes a few minutes to download and install.

The plug-in only works with DNG files. Start by convert the camera Raw file to DNG by going to File > Export and selecting the DNG option from the File Settings menu. Set Compatibility to the most recent version of Camera Raw listed and tick the Embed Fast Load Data box. Select the folder where you want to save the DNG file under Export Location. Also make sure you tick the Add to this Catalog box so you don’t have to go through the extra step of importing the exported files into the Lightroom Catalog.

How to uncrop square format photos in Lightroom

Select the new DNG file and go to the Develop module. Unlike DNGs created by converting the original Raw files at the import stage, you still can’t see the full image. To do so, go to File > Plug-in Extras and click the word Apply under DNG Recover Edges.

How to uncrop square format photos in Lightroom

Lightroom makes a new copy of the DNG file with the previously hidden area available when you go to the Crop Overlay tool (see below). This method takes longer but is the only way of working with Raw files in formats other than DNG.

How to uncrop square format photos in Lightroom

Further resources

Learn more about the square format and Lightroom with these articles:

The Three S’s of Composition

How to Show the Focus Points in Lightroom (another useful Lightroom plug-in)

Make Lightroom Faster by Using DNG (an article I wrote for Digital Photography School)

My full selection of photography ebooks, including Square and the Mastering Lightroom series.





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4 Responses to “How to Uncrop Square Format Images in Lightroom”

  1. Keith R. Starkey says:

    Cool. Not sure that I’ll ever use it, but it’s good to know about it. Thanks.

  2. Julie says:

    This is very helpful! I often shoot RAW square format and haven’t been able to recover the full files, though the camera literature tells me it’s possible. Now I know! Thank you!

    I love your work, books, blog. I have several of your books on my Macbook Air for reading on long flights – read them over and over again and each time I learn something new.

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