Sunday, April 8, 2012
Wait! Why did my photo get chopped off?
It all comes down to something very simple: aspect ratio. You remember ratios from elementary school? We're taking about the width of your image compared to the height of your image right when it comes out of your camera. In order for you to see every pixel of your photograph when you print it, you should choose a size that best matches the aspect ratio of your camera. If you don't, you could be loosing out. Literally. Up to almost a quarter of your image.
Your digital camera likely takes pictures in one of two aspect ratios: 2x3 or 4x3. My camera? It's a 2x3'er. What's yours? If you don't know this, you can look up your manual... or if that's sitting in your garage with the box the camera came in, you can do some of your own math... or look it up online ;p
Ok, so while this is all nice, what does it all mean? Lemme show you.
Take a look at these images. The left column of images illustrates how various print sizes affect a 2:3 aspect ratio image. The column on the right is a 4:3 aspect ratio image. What do you see?
Let's talk about 2:3 aspect ratio images first. Print sizes of 4x6, 8x12, 20x30 and 24x36 leave them completely un-altered. Love!!!
A 5x7 on the other hand starts chop-city. We loose about 0.5" of our image.
8x10 is where things get interesting. Check out little S' hands -- she is now missing the tips of her pinkies. Ouch! We lost a whole 2" of our image, and it just doesn't look the same. It honestly wasn't the image I envisioned when I took it. But you really wanted that enlargement, you say... ok how about upgrading to a 8x12 print. You'll be surprised how many places will offer this option. Yes, you will need a new frame, but doesn't the rest of your image deserve it?
11x14 and 20x24 sizes are a similar story. You loose 2.5" off the sides on an 11x14 print. On a 20x24 print, you loose a whole 6"!!! That makes S really, really, sad: she is no longer missing just the tips of her fingers -- she just lost a whole pinkie.
Well, what about 4:3 aspect ratio cameras? Good news? In larger print sizes, you don't loose as much out of your image. On an 8x10 you loose a little over 0.5". However, the small print sizes, like a 4x6 the loss is certainly more notable.
So where does this leave you? Ideally, especially if you are printing images from a 2:3 aspect ratio camera, stick to 2:3 aspect ratio print sizes (4x6, 8x12, 20x30 and 24x36).
But is this your only option? Certainly not. You could make it a point to take all of your images from a little farther away, or zoomed out to accommodate for the crop. To me, I'd hate this loss of creativity, so in good faith I can't tell you this is what you should be doing: I want you to experience the same image across multiple media and print sizes.
A second and more reasonable choice would be to use a matte: working either with a framing store to create a physical one, or create a digital one. Yes, you will have the matte showing in your printed image in the sizes that don't maintain the same aspect ratio, but hey... you'll see your whole image :) And you can make a digital matte look pretty nice too.
Hope this has been some good food for thought, and my examples above have helped you out.
Zemya Photography is a natural light photographer, based on the Bay Area Peninsula, and specializes in couples, maternity, family, newborn, baby, and children's on-location lifestyle portrait photography. Book your session today!