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Understanding Aspect Ratio for a Better Print

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For those of you planning to make prints as gifts, here is a better understanding of aspect ratios when preparing your files to send off to the lab, by the awesome Pamela Ann Berry from the photofocus crew.

“If you plan to print your photos, its essential to know that ratio to crop to.  Otherwise you may end up with unexpected results.

What is aspect ratio?

Aspect Ratio of an image describes the proportional relationship between its width and its height. The most common aspect ratios are 4:3, 3:2 Other aspect ratios, such as 5:3, 5:4, and 1:1 (square format), are used in medium and large format cameras.

During one of my first professional photography jobs I was taught to always leave room for crop. When I first started taking pictures of families and groups it was natural to fill the frame.  What I became to understand, cropping for standard crops and frames was essential to selling prints. If you fill a frame with a group shot and the image won’t fit into an 8 x 10 print, you lose the sale. I’m grateful for that experience. Learning to take pictures for the sale is now second nature to everything I shoot. Group shots are notorious for not fitting a standard very common 8 x 10 print.

Group Photos

Your group shot on a 3:2 camera will print without crops: 4 x 6, 8 x 12, 10 x 15, 12 x 18, 16 x 24, 20 x 30 & 24 x 36 However, most your clients will want an 8 x 10 verses an 8 x 12. This means when you take a picture, leave space open around your subjects.

Auto Crop Fail

My second major photography job was working at a print lab. A common problem labs see is auto crop fail. Often customers will upload a print, ask for an 8 x 10 and let the lab crop. Many of the online labs are now automated and will not look at a crop before printing.

Allow room and/ or crop beforehand to get the print you are expecting and one to make your clients happy. Your clients will also be grateful knowing they aren’t losing part of the print.

The Bottom Line

Understanding how your camera’s aspect ratio works and apply that to your shots. You understand your crops better then your clients.  Your clients likely do not understand why an 8 x 10 won’t work with a picture you took. Keep your pictures print valuable and watch your sales grow and your clients come back.”

For more knowledge, you can follow Pamela on her Twitter & Instragram, or catch her running around with the rest of the photofocus gang at Photoshop World 2015 in Vegas.

One Comment

  • Philip Burt says:

    What I do for those wanting prints that they can go do their self is crop them to the size they need and use the file name so they can identify them. Using light room I will create as many virtual copies as needed, say they would want a 4×6 and a 8 x 10. I will then create 2 virtual copies and crop each accordingly. This way I have control over the image they will print so it meets my approval. If they did it and cropped wrong then people will still blame the photographer and you may lose business. Yes this takes some extra time so I build in a little extra cash and then I feel good and the client does too.