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macOS comes with comprehensive screenshotting abilities right out of the box.

Some of the more advanced screenshot-taking features supported by your Mac computer will probably be less obvious to novice users than the basic ones.

Taking screenshots in macOS starts with a pair of simple keyboard combinations:

  • Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-3: take a screenshot of the whole screen
  • Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4: take a screenshot of a portion of the screen

Thoughtfully, the Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 shortcut can be combined with several modifier keys for enhanced functionality.

For example, pressing the Space bar turns the crosshair selection tool into a camera icon, allowing you to effortlessly highlight and capture a single window or a menu.

Other modifier keys let you capture a screenshot of your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, remove the window’s drops shadow, send a screenshot directly to the clipboard and so forth.

This tutorial explains using modifier keys when taking screenshots, which allows you to reposition or refine the dimensions of the selection area accurately and on the fly.

Let’s get started…

4 tips for taking selection screenshots on Mac

As we mentioned, pressing simultaneously Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 on your keyboard allows you to screenshot a portion of the display, regardless of the app you’re currently using. The mouse pointer changes to a crosshair icon with dynamically updated cursor coordinates.

Move the crosshair to where you want to start the screenshot, then click and hold the mouse or trackpad button and start dragging to highlight an area you’d like to capture. You’ll notice that the crosshair icon now displays the current dimensions of the selection area.

Let go of the button and the screenshot is instantly saved as an image file on your desktop.

And now, take advantage of the following tips that let you do things such as resize your selection area, remove a window’s drop shadow effect and more.

Tip #1: reposition selection area

You can easily reposition your selection in case you’ve miscalculated the starting point:

1) Press Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 on the keyboard.

2) Move the crosshair pointer to where you’d like to start the screenshot.

3) Press and hold the mouse or trackpad button, then drag the pointer to select an area.

4) If you misjudged the selection’s starting point, press and hold the Space bar key without releasing the mouse button to move the entire selection area freely in any direction.

Hold the Space bar to move the highlighted selection area around

5) When you’re satisfied with the selection, release the mouse or trackpad button.

Tip #2: resize selection area from its center

To resize the whole selection area from its center point, do the following:

1) Press Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 on the keyboard.

2) Move the crosshair pointer to where you’d like to start the screenshot.

3) Press and hold the mouse button, then drag to start expanding the selection area.

4) Press and hold the Shift (⇧) key without letting go of the mouse button in order to resize the selection area in all directions simultaneously, right from its center point.

Holding the Shift key resizes the selection from its center point

5) When you’ve selected the area you want, release the mouse or trackpad button.

Tip #3: resize selection area in dragging direction

You can lock the selection so it only resizes in the dragging direction:

1) Press Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 on the keyboard.

2) Move the crosshair pointer to where you’d like to start the screenshot.

3) Press and hold the mouse or trackpad button, then start dragging to select an area.

4) Press and hold the Shift (⇧) key to restrict the resizing action to the direction that you’re dragging in while locking other borders of your selection area.

The Shift key restricts resizing to the direction you’re dragging in

5) When you’ve selected the area you want, release the mouse or trackpad button.

Tip #4: remove drop shadow

By default, screenshots of windows include macOS’s drop shadow effect. To remove the shadow effect from a screenshot of a window on an ad-hoc basis, do the following:

1) Press Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 on the keyboard.

2) Press the Space bar. The pointer changes to a camera.

3) Move the camera pointer over a window to highlight it.

4) Press and hold the Option (⌥) key before hitting the mouse or trackpad button to capture a screenshot of the highlighted window without the distracting drop shadow effect.

Holding the Option key when capturing a window removes its shadow

TIP: use the Terminal app to permanently disable the drop shadow on window screenshots.

To remove the shadow effect and send your screenshot to the system clipboard for easy pasting in other apps, use the Control (⌃)-Command (⌘)-Shift (⇧)-4 shortcut instead.

Bringing it all together

The best thing about capturing screenshots on your Mac is the ability to combine the aforementioned selection methods during a single capture session in order to accurately and reliably reposition or resize the selection area.

You could, say, start making a selection normally, then hold the Space bar to reposition the selection area and tweak your starting point before deciding to hold the Option key to further refine the dimensions of the selection area by resizing it from its center.

Other Mac screenshotting tips

To make the most from macOS’s screenshot-taking capabilities, peruse the following tutorials:

Have you stumbled upon a cool screenshotting tip we haven’t covered yet?

If so, shared your findings with fellow readers in the comments down below.

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