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.
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.