How to understand aspect ratio and printing | Queensberry

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What is "aspect ratio", and why can it be a problem?

The aspect ratio of an image is the ratio of its width to its height. Unless the aspect ratio of a print or frame matches that of the camera image from which it is made, the original image will need to be cropped.

What to do

When shooting, bear in mind the finished print that you want to sell. If you frame the subject tightly (with important content out to the edges of the image) you won't be able to crop — you'll need to order prints with the same aspect ratio as the camera. Since most digital camerals have an aspect ratio of 3:2 you'll need (eg) 12x8 or 15x10 prints, which are also 3:2. 10x8 or 14x11 prints would be cropped, and if you've framed tightly you won't have that option. Ths same logic applies when it comes to frames.

We recommend standing back (or zooming out) so you have more space around the subject matter. That way you'll be able to crop and frame  the subject matter to suit the product.

This is especially important with group photos. Imagine coming back from a school shoot to discover that instead of 10x8 prints you'll need to order more expensive 12x8s — because otherwise the kids on the sides will be cropped out.

It's also important if your prints could end up in album or frame mat apertures with mismatched aspect ratios. If nothing else, it's going to restrict your design options.

To illustrate the problem (and solution!) here are four standard 3:2 images shown cropped to 10x8 (aspect ratio 2.5:2). 

Lauren Anne Photography

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Lauren Anne Photography

A 12x8 print would retain the entire image, but the man's shoulder and woman's hair disappear slightly when cropped to 10x8. That might be fine here, but you can see how you could lose important details if they extend to the sides.

Lauren Anne Photography

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Lauren Anne Photography

Taken from slightly further back you have more options in the print, frame or album, including being able to zoom in on the couple.

Cam Grove Photography

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Cam Grove Photography

Cropped to 10x8, two of the bridesmaids in this beautiful group photograph lose the back of their heads.

Cam Grove Photography

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Cam Grove Photography

Shot from further back, the groomsmen fit easily into the 10x8 frame. But note how I've shifted the crop to the left to improve the composition, something to watch for with 'auto-crop' functions.

Print sizes that won't require cropping a 3:2 image include 6x4, 12x8, 15x10, 18x12, 24x16, 30x20, 36x24 and so on. Other popular print sizes such as 7x5, 14x11 and 20x16 will be cropped. 7.5x5 is a 3:2 aspect ratio and one of the main aperture sizes we use to design albums. 

The same issue applies to frames, although you can choose mat apertures to suit the image (eg a 12x8 aperture in a 14x11 frame). Many of our frames require little or no cropping, including the "A" sizes (A1, A2. A3, A4). Another problem solved! Take a look at our range here.

For a comprehensive article about aspect ratios and their history, click here.

Victoria

Featured imagery by Cam Grove (AUS) and Lauren Anne Photography (AUS). Sorry for using your images to illustrate a technical issue — no reflection on you!