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By Anna Gay on | No Comments
A common misconception about printing images is that you can print any image, at any size, and everything that appears in the image on your screen will also appear in a print. In other words, nothing will be cropped out of the picture.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case -- but there are workarounds! First, let me explain the basics of aspect ratios and HOW IT RELATES to print dimensions:
Most digital images, shot in camera and before any cropping occurs during post-processing, have an aspect ratio of around 4:6 or 2:3 (another way of expressing 4 x 6 or 2 x 3).
I love to cook, so thinking about aspect ratio in cooking terms helps me visualize what these numbers mean. I think of 4 x 6 in terms of "four parts height, and six parts width. I know it sounds silly, but this is one of those situations where whatever helps you work out the math in your head is totally acceptable, as long as you can visualize what the numbers mean.
Now, when this ratio is translated to print dimensions, a common size is 8 x 12 inches:
This is where things get a bit tricky with printing.
Let's say your client wants an 8 x 10 print. Well, part of the image is going to have to be cropped out because 8 x 10 and 8 x 12 are different aspect ratios:
As you can see above, cropping from the original straight out of the camera dimensions results in losing some of the edges of the image. This is because we are cropping from a 4:6 (or 8 x 12 aspect ratio) to a 4:5 or (8 x 10 aspect ratio).
Another common aspect ratio is 5:7. This is a default ratio in Lightroom or Photoshop. This aspect ratio is slightly less boxy and rectangular than the 4 x 5 (8 x 10) ratio. Therefore it is closer to the original image that you saw on your camera. While you will still lose a small portion of your image, it will be less than a 4 x 5 (8 x 10) crop.
Square prints are also quite popular nowadays, and the ratio for the square crop is 1 x 1 (equal parts height and width!):
Remember that you can also go larger with the print dimensions while keeping the same aspect ratio.
For example, our 4 x 5 aspect ratio (8 x 10) above can also be sized to precisely 16 x 20. Nothing will be cropped, and nothing will be visible in the 16 x 20 that was not visible in the 8 x 10. It will have the exact height/width ratio; it will just be a larger print:
So, the best workarounds for cropping your image for print is to shoot with cropping in mind. As you compose your image, just know that if printing in standard print dimensions, the edges of your image will most certainly not appear in the print.
Another great thing to do is crop the image yourself - before you send it to your printer. It is much safer to crop the photos the way you want them cropped rather than leaving them at the mercy of someone else.
Do you have any questions or comments about Aspect Ratio in relation to Print Dimensions? Leave us a comment below - we would LOVE to hear from you! And PLEASE SHARE our tutorial using the social sharing buttons (we really appreciate it)!
Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based in Athens, GA and the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. She also designs actions and textures for Photoshop. When she is not shooting or writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, and their two cats, Elphie and Fat Cat.