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Have You Ever Wondered What Aspect Ratio Is?

Aspect ratio or aspect definition is the width to length ratio of a photograph. So if an image is twice as wide as it is tall, it would have a 2:1 aspect ratio. The aspect ratio is independent of the overall pixel dimension. For example, both a 1200×600 image that’s 1200 pixels wide by 600 pixels tall and an 800×400 image have a 2:1 aspect ratio. This is because both have 2 pixels of width for every pixel of height.

A 3:2 aspect ratio would mean an image with 3 pixels of width for every 2 pixels of height. Common sizes include 600×400 and 1200×800. Images with dimensions of 1850×1000 have a 1:85:1 aspect definition. A square image whose width equals its height would have a 1:1 aspect ratio.

Today we are going to talk about something which many people struggle with when it comes to images. It’s fair to assume that not many people print their photographs nowadays. However, for those of us out there that do, this is something that you will no doubt come across at some point or another.

You get the perfect shot all lined up and you choose your frame. You get the spot of the wall picked out and as soon as you print your photograph, you realize that something important in the picture is now cropped off. This is something that happens on a very frequent basis.

Why Does Aspect Ratio Matter

The relationship between the subject of the image and the dimension of the frame affects the overall outlook and presentation of the taken photograph. The space around the subject image and the nature of that space, whether it’s an empty space or negative, contributes to the overall appeal of the photograph. Aspect ratios have always carried an important emphasis in their sensory perception by the human eye. Most photographs throughout history that have been immortalized or famed have had a very significant focus placed upon the aspect ratio that they were captured in.

Camera Aspect Ratio Adjustment

The reason that the above scenario takes place is that different images have different aspect ratios. Most digital cameras and especially digital single lens reflex cameras have a given aspect ratio that they capture images in.

For most cameras, that’s a 3:2 ratio. Now on certain cameras, you can go into your camera menu system and you can change that. For example, in some of the newer high-end Nikon models, you can make the camera take a picture using 5:4 ratio.

A 5:4 ratio is what we have in an 8×10 image for example, while an image size like a 4×6 is going to adhere to a normal 3:2 ratio. This is one thing to keep in mind. If you know that, your image is going to be printed at a 5:4 ratio size such as an 8×10. Just be sure to leave a little bit of extra space. That way once you crop your image, you will have enough room.

The other choice for you would be to print the image in a size that does fit a 3:2 ratio. For example, instead of printing in an 8×10, you could print an 8×12, and you would have virtually no cropping at all. The only thing to keep in mind is that it’s much harder to find frames that match for 8×12 than it’s for an 8×10.

Post-Processing Cropping

Now we will show you some tips to keep in mind during post-processing. Using Lightroom or Photoshop, many people will use a process known as free cropping an image. This is when you just pull a crop out in any random size. The problem with doing that is that you have no idea what size you have cropped your image to. You have no way of knowing what aspect ratio it is, and when you have it printed, you may end up with a crop that is undesirable.

Instead of free cropping your image, you can choose to crop to a certain ratio. In Lightroom, locate the Crop Tool in the top right panel of the Develop Module, circled below. Use the Aspect drop down menu to select the crop ratio you would like to use on your image. You can see the menu location noted by the red arrow.

You are given several options for setting the ratio of your crop. I prefer using the original aspect ratio of my photo in most cases, but when you know an image is being printed to a certain size, there are a wide variety of ratios to choose from.

In Photoshop, you will see similar options with the crop tool, as seen below:

The crucial point to note is that no matter what aspect ratios you are shooting, if you know that you are going to print out a given size, then you need to shoot with that ratio in mind. In addition, if you are not sure what’s going to happen to your image, try to shoot the photograph in a way that will allow you a lot of extra space. That way, whenever any adjustments are made or when the photograph is placed in a web template, you will have enough space left over to work with.