Aspect Ratios and Cropping Your Photos / by Timberly Maddox

You had the most amazing session with your photographer, the images are perfect, and you are trying to decide how you will display them in your home.  One thing you need to consider is the aspect ratio of your picture frame, canvas, or artwork print.  Before we get too far, let's make sure we are all on the same page.  Without getting too technical, aspect ratio refers to the relationship of the length (L) of your image to its width (W) and is expressed as L:W (ratio) or LxW (print size in inches).  Most cameras used by professional photographers have an aspect ratio of 2:3, while most point and shoot consumer photography cameras have an aspect ratio of 3:4. 

The most common print sizes available for purchase correspond to the easiest to purchase frame sizes - 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, 16x20, and 20x24.  You may have noticed that these have different aspect ratios than the ratios mentioned above.  While other frame sizes are considered standard by photography frame shops (8x12, 12x16, 12x18, and 20x30) , they cannot be readily purchased at a department store.  Another popular trend is to display an array of photos with an aspect ratio of 1:1 on canvas or large prints.  Okay that was a lot of numbers I just threw at you.  Why don't we take a look at what this really means for your photo.

 

Let's take a look at a standard portrait in its native aspect ratio (2:3 in this case).  This is the image your photographer would show at your ordering session.  It's a nice picture right?  What happens when you want to display it in your 11x14 inch frame?

Original image, 2:3 aspect ratio.  The photos below demonstrate how the composition of the image changes when an aspect ratio other than 2:3 is chosen.  Some images are more easily cropped for display in other aspect ratios than others.  For demonstration purposes, I have chosen an image that doesn't look as nice when cropped for a new aspect ratio.

 

The photos below demonstrate how the composition of the image changes when an aspect ratio other than 2:3 is chosen.  Some images are more easily cropped for display in other aspect ratios.  For demonstration purposes, I have chosen an image that doesn't look as nice when cropped for a new aspect ratio.

2.5x3.5

5x7

8x10

8x12

 

11x14

  12x16

12x16

12x18

16x20

 

The following is a more difficult to utilize crop - ratio 5:6 for a 20x24 frame.  I will show you a crop of the photo we have been examining, but I am also going to include an image that more easily lends itself to this type of crop.

20x24 (5:6)

Original ratio 3:2

By using a landscape photo with a vertical subject, a 6:5 aspect ratio works a bit better. 

And finally, the square crop made so famous by Instagram.  This type of crop can work very well, but only if the correct image is chosen.  Let's take a look at one final set of pictures.

Now that you know a bit more about aspect ratios and image cropping, will this knowledge change the way you order and display your photos?