Even if aspect ratio is an unfamiliar term to you, you are probably well aware of its effect. Has it ever happened to you that you had a photo with great framing and composition, decided to print it only to realize part of your image will be missing or even worse you are about to chop an arm? What is going on? Aspect ratio is to blame!
Aspect ratio (crop ratio) simply describes the relationship between the width and height of an image. It is the measurement of photograph’s long side to the short side. Most cameras produce photographs in a 3:2 aspect ratio. What it means is that the long side is 1.5 times longer than the short side. This ratio will produce a 4×6 print and larger sizes (8×12, 16×20) in the same ratio. But when we want to print the same photo in, let’s say, 8×10, which is a different ration (5:4), part of the photo will be cropped. Yes, a piece of the photo will be cut off. There is no way around that.
This is certainly something to be of aware when printing your own photos. Most labs (definitely the one I recommend to my clients who purchase digital files) allow you to preview and adjust your images for the desired crop without losing any limbs and heads.
Now, let’s look at some examples. Below you can see how different ratios relate to different crops of the same image. The original photo is in the 3:2 ratio.
Here are common crop ratios with corresponding print sizes.