qCrop is a collection of online-tools for automatically cropping images into any desired aspect ratio. Why is this a thing, after all? Well, changing the aspect ratio of an image – say, from landscape to portrait – can only be accomplished with the removal of parts of the image. This ultimately alters the motif and visual composition of the image, and, as a consequence, a decision has to be made, which parts of the image should remain and which parts should be stripped. Such a decision can be demanding for a human user and proves impossible for the computer to do in a dependable way. Rescaling and resampling of an image is easy for the computer - reconveying the image composition in case of an aspect ratio change is not.
Modern publication habits often require the same image to be published in multiple aspect ratios: for example as squarish thumbnail on the landing page, as landscape banner on the article page and in its original 4:3 aspect ratio when magnified by the reader. Before qCrop, it was a tedious task for photo editors to produce each and every required variant of an image for the digital workflow. And subsequent supplementation of additional aspect ratios for the possibly hundred of thousands of photos in the archive seemed like an unimaginable effort.
But now, qCrop promises just that: the automatic, reliable, best motif-preserving cropping of images to any aspect ratio, on demand, in any environment.
If you want to learn more about the general and artistic aspects of image composition (and the aspect ratio as part of it), we suggest to proceed reading the article Understanding aspect ratio. Feel free to skip this article if you are familiar with the subject.
Numerous attempts have been made in the past to automize image cropping with software tools. There are plenty of approaches, including analysis of image properties like color distribution, contrast and sharpness, the recognition of faces and the attempt to find focal areas of an image with Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. While some of these efforts produce acceptable (and sometimes astonishing) results for certain types of images, they unpredictably and utterly fail on others. In a fully automated, unguarded workflow, though, we have to rely upon each and every cropping operation to return reasonably perfect results.
We found human intellect to be the only reliable source for assessing an image’s composition and statement. qCrop provides the means to enrich the metadata of an image with cropping hints that are placed by a human user: once per image, within seconds and universally valid for every aspect ratio. So whenever the qCrop service automatically crops an image to a new aspect ratio, the process is implicitly determined by human decision. This is, what we call Naturally Intelligent.
If you want to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the realm of image cropping and our decision process towards a human driven, naturally intelligent approach, we suggest to proceed reading the article qCrop and Artificial Intelligence.
The qCrop method requires two main components:
- the qCrop Client: a tool to apply, visually assess and embedd cropping hints to the metadata set of an image.
- the qCrop Service: a tool to retrieve an automatically cropped image by passing parameters for the desired target size, file format, color profile and the like.
qCrop is providing those tools as one unified serverless microservice, which means that invoking the functionality is as easy as executing a weblink. Currently in the form of docker containers, qCrop is extremely easy to scale and to integrate with existing IT infrastructure and 3rd party applications.
Besides these two main components, there are additional tools for developers and integrators that assist in implementation and diagnosis. Learn more about the qCrop framework by proceeding to the article The qCrop Architecture.
qCrop not only provides huge cost-saving opportunities by disburdening photo editors from tedious routine jobs, but also gives back full creative freedom by eliminating technical constraints in the process of image cropping.
qCrop clears the way for brand-new business opportunities in the highly competitive market of stock photography, based on a file-less image delivery concept without the need for interim handling by the customer.
qCrop removes image related jobstoppers in modern marketing workflows.
qCrop integrates effortless with Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems, Content Management systems (CMS) and other production tools.
qCrop enables agencies to implement unguarded, fully automated, fully dynamic “content first” and template driven workflows by eliminating manual image cropping efforts and constraints to small subsets of prefabricated aspect ratios. This applies to online/digital as well as print.
Last but not least, qCrop allows photographers to retain more control about the appropriateness of their work, even after the image has left the photographer’s immediate sphere of influence. In addition, preparing the images with cropping hints for automated image processing increases their value for potential customers.