Let’s Talk Aspect Ratio. Wait, What’s Aspect Ratio??? | Crestview, FL Photographer

One of the most frequent questions I get when people try to order prints of their own pictures is why portions get cut off when they try to print an 8×10.  I think this is one of those topics best explained with visual aids.

Depending on your camera, you are taking pictures with specific aspect ratio.  This is the relationship of the height to width of your image.  My camera takes pictures at an aspect ratio of 2:3.  This size image translates exactly to print sizes of 4×6, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, 24×36 and 40×60 (and I actually know someone who has a 40×60 canvas hanging over their mantle!).  When people start looking to order sizes other than these, the image starts to become more “square” and portions of the image are left off of the print.  As you change the size of the print you are actually changing the shape of the print.

Here is a picture I took this fall at a football game of the game captains getting ready to walk out on to the field for the cointoss.  This is the crop ratio straight from my camera, 2:3 (which corresponds to the sizes listed above).

Now, when we take the exact same picture and crop it for a 5×7 print you’ll notice some of the image on the side of either player at the ends is cropped out and that the image isn’t quite as wide as the one above.  I’ve left my watermark in the image to further illustrate what is cropped out of the picture.

That’s not terrible.  All four boys are still included and no one is missing any limbs.  But, what if we want to go bigger?  A very popular size is 8×10 (and I’ll talk more about print sizes in a minute).  This is where things get messy.

You can see that we’re now losing the arms of both end players. This would definitely be a disappointment if you were the parent of either of those two boys!  The 4:5 aspect ratio is rather square, so a lot of the original image gets left out of prints with this ratio – including 8×10 and 16×20.

So, what if you go even bigger?  Say to an 11×14 – surely a larger print will solve the issue, right?  Well, not exactly.  The 11×14 print is still a rather square aspect ratio.  Here is what that print would look like.

See? It’s only a smidge wider than the 8×10 and the arms of the two boys on either end are still cut off.  Again, you’d be disappointed if you were the parent of one of them trying to print this to hang on your wall.

The moral of the story – pay close attention to how much space you have to work with when thinking about cropping images to aspect ratios other than the one your camera uses to create the image.  One solution is to not “fill the frame” when you take the picture – which means you don’t zoom in so far that the image you are trying to capture completely fills the borders of the picture…leave some space around the edges.  I admit, this is something I have to remind myself to do.  My mind doesn’t see the images I’m capturing in the 4:5 ratio, so I have to make very conscious decisions to leave extra room in case a client wishes to order 8×10 prints.  I always review your proofs with you to ensure the sizes you wish to order are suitable to each individual image.

Speaking of ordering 8×10 prints….  I know it’s the frame size most readily available at your local store, but ask yourself if that’s really the size you want hanging on your wall.  Unless it’s part of a collage of images, it’s likely going to get swallowed up by the wall space above your sofa or fireplace mantle.  Would you hang an 8×10 television there?  Take the time to measure the spot where you want to hang that family portrait and really think about how each size will look in relation to the size of the wall.  Pick up a roll of kraft paper at the store and cut out paper representations of each size to tape to the wall to help you visualize exactly how each size will work (I actually do this when hanging collages so that I can map out the exact spacing of each framed print…long gone are the days of pounding the same nail five times to get the picture hung just right).  I’m not saying we all need to be hanging 30×40 canvases on our walls, but I almost guarantee you that the 8×10 you were thinking of is most likely far, far too small to hang on it’s own!

If you would like more information on aspect ratio, or are interested in scheduling a session, just click on the “Contact” button at the top of the page to get in touch.  And don’t forget to follow me on Facebook – a link to my page is available at the bottom of the page!

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