Picture Snob

May 6, 2008

How Aspect Ratio Affects You: Have You Ever Noticed Your Digital Prints Are Cropped?

aspectratio.jpgWhen we all shot 35mm film, we all produced images with the same aspect ratio (3:2), and the ever popular 4x6 print is based upon that. In the digital world, however, digital cameras do not all share this 3:2 aspect ratio, and as a result, all digital photos do not convert well to 4x6 prints. The most common aspect ratios for digital cameras are 3:2 (most digital SLRs) and 4:3 (most compact point-and-shoots). Some cameras allow you to choose your own aspect ratio. Aspect ratios differ between manufacturer and even between models from the same manufacturer. Awesome, huh?

What is aspect ratio? Aspect ratio is simply the relationship between the width and height of your image--as you see in the chart below, we get the aspect ratio of an image by reducing the numbers to their lowest common denominator. (Don't worry, we did the math for you!)

Print Size ---> Aspect Ratio
4x6 ---> 3:2
5x7 ---> 7:5
8x10 ---> 5:4
20x30 ---> 3:2

Some day, this discrepancy may sort out--maybe labs will print in other aspect ratios and maybe manufacturers will agree on an aspect ratio. Until then, here are a few things you can do to prevent an Insolent Cropping Crisis:


  1. If you know what size you like to print, get a camera that agrees with that aspect ratio.

  2. Some labs (try Snapfish) allow you to select "true digital size" and will not crop your image.

  3. Print with a lab that allows you to select your own crop when you want to -- try myPhotopipe.com (see our earlier post on this service).

  4. Be vigilant when taking your photos and leave enough "safe space" around the edges so that an auto-crop won't cut off anyone's head or eyeball or some such.

  5. Write to your congressman. If they have time to pioneer HDTV, they have time to save us from crappy crops.

Read More in: Digital Cameras | Digital Photo Services | Tips and Tricks

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Posted by Susan Moriarty at May 6, 2008 12:04 PM
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