Cropping and Aspect Ratio

When you go shopping for a picture frame, what’s the most “common” size you’ll find?  8″ x 10″.  It’s been like that for… well, longer than I’ve been around.  I remember when I first got into photography, (the film years) and took my film to the drugstore to get processed.  I had 4″x6″ prints made, and one of them looked GREAT!  I thought..”hmm… I’m going to blow this up and put it on my wall” so I ordered an 8×10.  When I got the print back from the lab, part of the person’s head was cut off!!  I checked my smaller 4×6 print, and it was fine… the negative looked okay…  what happened?  I was furious.

I didn’t get it back then, and a lot of people still don’t get it.  The cameras have a little rectangular sensor.  The size ratio for the small end compared to the long end of the rectangle is 2:3.  I could go into a long post about math… but I’m a visual person.  I was going to try and create a diagram that explains this, when I found a picture on Facebook that explains it very well.

This was created by photographer Jessica Downey from Chandler Arizona.  Same photograph printed in 5 different aspect ratios.  If you want to create a print that doesn’t have one of the sides chopped off, then you should print at one of the 2:3 ratio sizes, which would be 4×6, 16×24, or 20×30.

San Antonio Wedding Cropping
Look at the example for the 8″x10″. You lose a full two inches. Most labs will take an inch off both sides. Same thing if you order a 16×20 print.