Now You Can Have a Better Understanding of Image Aspect Ratios

Imagine you took lovely pictures of your family members, and now they want 8x10s as soon as possible. On the way to the photo lab, you think about the lovely composition, only to find out that parts of every image have been cut off in each 8×10 print. This is precisely why every photographer needs to understand image aspect ratios.

Why and when does an image aspect ratio matter?

Understanding image aspect ratios is important when it comes to printing and print sizes. It determines the ratio between the width and the height of an image and it depends on the type of camera a photographer uses. Common DSLR cameras have a ratio of 4:3 and 3:2. Here are some common questions regarding image aspect ratios.

Similar Article: How Image Aspect Ratios Work in Digital Photography

How does an image aspect ratio affect cropping?

Pull out a picture of your loved one from your wallet; it is most likely the size of that picture is 2×3 inches, which means it is a 3:2 ratio. When you double 2×3 inches you end up with 4×6 inches. Now double 4×6 inches and you’ll get 8×12 inches. If your camera produces a 3:2 image aspect ratio, you get 8×12 prints, but not 8×10 prints without losing two inches. Makes sense, right?

This means that with a 3:2 image aspect ratio, it is not recommended to make 8×10 prints unless you do not mind losing two inches. If your camera supports a 5:4 image aspect ratio, you can make 8×10 prints without losing any inches.

Another common ratio is a 4:3 image aspect ratio found on DSLR cameras and even your iPhone. Don’t expect a perfect 4×6 size from a 4:3 ratio unless you do not mind trimming a part of your image.  A 4:3 ratio will produce a 4.5×6 inch size, not a 4×6 inch size.

How do I figure out my image aspect ratio?

Open one of your uncropped pictures in your favorite image editing software such as Photoshop Elements or Photoshop. Since most professionals use Photoshop, I’ll stick to it. Under Image > Size set either the height or the width to, say, 8 inches. If the opposite dimension, whether it is height or width, turns to 12 inches, this will indicate that your image has a 3:2 ratio.

From this point you will have to decide whether to get an 8×10 print or an 8×12. With the latter size, you might have a hard time finding a frame. The same applies to other image/print sizes.

What are some common aspect ratios and their corresponding print sizes?

Some cameras allow you to change the image aspect ratio. Most common ratios are 4:3 and 3:2. Before purchasing a camera, find out what image aspect ratio is supported by your camera. However, this is not really necessary.

  • 3:2 Ratio – used in 35mm film and digital cameras. Sizes include 2×3, 4×6, 8×12…
  • 4:3 Ratio – used in DSLR cameras and your iPhone. Sizes include 6×8, 12×16, 24×36…
  • 5:4 Ratio – used in large format cameras. Sizes include 8×10, 16×20…
  • 1:1 Ratio – used with classic square images. Sizes include 5×5, 12×12…

Quick Tips & Notes

Here are some tips that might help you out in the future.

  • Beware of the image aspect ratio before shooting/printing.
  • If the ratio is 3:2, don’t expect an uncropped image in sizes such as 8×10, 11×14, 16×20 etc…
  • If your camera ratio is 3:2 and your customers want 8×10 prints, don’t crop too tight on the spot. Allow more room into your view finder so that the picture can be cropped in post production.
  • Image aspect ratios will affect your framing as well unless you’re getting a custom frame.
  • If you need a custom size, please ask us. We can do any custom size, provided that it fits our large roll of paper.

Your Thoughts…

Do you have better understanding of Image Aspect Ratios now? Let us know by sharing your thoughts in the comments area below, and don’t forgot to subscribe to this blog for more articles and tips. See you next week. Cheers. 

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