December 23, 2021

UNDERSTANDING ASPECT RATIOS FOR PHOTO PRINTING

You may be thinking to yourself, what the heck is aspect ratio and why do I need to know about it?! Simply put, aspect ratio is the relationship between the width of an image to the height of an image. It’s important to understand what this means because it can affect the final product when you print your photos.

Now I will be the first person to admit that I am not a math person! I am going to explain this as visually as possible because it’s how *I* came to understand aspect ratio. But first, let me start with the basics.

A 4×6 image has a ratio of 2:3. This is the standard ratio that DSLR cameras shoot in. All of my images, as well as most photographers images, will be delivered to you in this ratio.

This image has a ratio of 3:2, For every 3 inches of width, there is 2 inches of height. (Important to note, these ratios are interchangeable, as in a 2:3 and a 3:2 ratio are the same, depending on if the image is horizontal or vertical.)

When it comes to printing your photos, there are many other popular sizes with different aspect ratios than the standard. For instance 8×10 is one of the most popular print sizes which has a ratio of 4:5, or a 5×7 print which has a 5:7 ratio. (5:7 could also be a 2.5:3.5 ratio if we want to get fancy, but for these examples i’m sticking with whole numbers!)

Below is a visual example of different aspect ratios. If the aspect ratio is the SAME on a particular size print, it’s outlined in the same color! You can see that depending on your chosen ratio, you will loose some of the image.

2:3 ratio is outlined in pink, 4:5 ratio in blue, 5:7 ratio in orange, and 5:6 ratio is outlined in yellow.

For the above image, it still looks great in all aspect ratios! You loose some of the sides but it doesn’t take away from the overall image or the subject. This isn’t always the case!

Let’s take a look two family portraits. You will see one of them has more room to work with, whereas the other does not. These images can both be printed and look fantastic; you just have to be more selective with the size of your product.

If you were going to print one of these images for you wall and wanted let’s say a 16×20, you would want to choose the image on the LEFT. But what if you prefer the image on the right? You would want to print your image 16×24 instead. You then keep the same aspect ratio without loosing any of the image.

Here is the right image cropped with a 4:5 aspect ratio, aka 16×20 print size. As you can see we lost a good amount of room on the sides. We also cut off the elbows of each person on the end.

Here is the left image cropped with the same aspect ratio of 4:5 to fit into a 16×20 canvas. While we did loose some of the sides, the overall image was not affected. Everyone is still within the canvas and no one it cut off!

I always recommend clients print their images directly though their gallery! This is because I have final approval of your images before they get sent to the lab. I personally review every print order, and can adjust the crop as necessary. Or as in the case above, I can recommend a different image or different sized print!

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