Printing photos

Aspect ratio

Written by Gail Bjork

Cropping not only helps ensure that a photo has the same dimensions as the paper it’s printed on but can help improve the overall composition of the image.

Aspect ratio

Aspect ratio settings in Picasa. Click image to enlarge.

Aspect ratio is the relationship of the width of an image to its height, of its horizontal to vertical dimensions.

Common aspect ratios are 3:2, 4:3, 5:5 and 16:9 (HDTV). The number preceding the colon represents the width of the image and the number after the colon represents the height.

For example, both a 4×6″ and 20×30″ print have an aspect ratio of 3:2. A 3×4″ print has an aspect ratio of 4:3. Images with an aspect ratio of 4:5 can be printed 4×5, 8×10, 16×20 or 24×30.”

Some digital cameras let you select more than one aspect ratio within the settings menu. The ratios match standard print sizes. For digital cameras with only one setting, you can crop images to the desired aspect ratio when editing.

All photo editing programs have tools for cropping at various aspect ratios. You can choose either a standard or custom aspect ratio.

Why setting aspect ratio is important

If a photo doesn’t have the the same aspect ratio as the paper it’s printed on, one of two things happen. Prints will have an odd sized border on some sides or the printer will arbitrarily crop. To be in control of how a photo is cropped, it’s best to crop it yourself before printing.

To maintain high visual quality when cropping images, shoot at the highest resolution and quality settings. Digital cameras with high megapixels produce images with areas that can be cropped more without a reduction in image quality. Proper cropping is an important step when preparing images for printing.

Whenever possible, compose shots so that they require a minimum of amount cropping.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.

5 Comments

  • gabby, “frame” a shot is a photography term that means “compose,” ie. compose a shot. As you can see from this wikipedia article, aspect ratio is difficult to explain more simply. Please check your photo editing software and/or printer help files for more information about aspect ratio.

  • also this was kind of trying to sound too smart so hopefully you can make changes on that too if you want a better site. and what does “frame shots” mean?? can you make a link to that too! thanks!

  • this was too unexplanitory!!!! make it easier and use different terms. I didnt know what was going on and i got lost in the reading so make changes definitely