Friday, June 20, 2014

Photoshop Tips: Printing and Aspect Ratios

Editing Tips

When it comes to printing there are two questions that come up all the time:

1: I want to print an 8x10, but the edges are being cut off.  Can you help me fix my photo so that I don’t lose anything when it prints?

2: So how large can I print this?

Aspect Ratios

Let’s start with the first question.  To do this we need to understand aspect ratios.  The aspect ratio is the relationship of an image’s width to height.  My digital camera takes pictures with an aspect ratio of 4:3.  By comparison, an 8x10 photo has an aspect ratio of 5:4 (that’s simple math…10 divided by 2 equals 5; 8 divided by 2 equals 4).  It would be nice if they made the camera’s aspect ratio and all standard print sizes’ aspect ratios the same, but that’s not the case.  Even the most common print sizes have different aspect ratios.

Print Size             Aspect Ratio
4x6                       3:2
5x7                       7:5
8x10                     5:4
11x14                   14:11 (almost a 7:5 but not quite)
16x20                    5:4

So what does this all mean?  It means that if you send your photos off to be printed, parts of the picture will be cut off.  There is no magical way to fix this.  It means that you should crop your picture before having it sent off to the printer so that you can choose which parts are cut off and not leave it to fate.  It also means that you should compose the picture before you even snap the shutter keeping in mind that you might need to crop afterwards.

Below is an example of a picture with an aspect ratio of 4:3 that my camera uses.  Compare that to the picture showing how much will be lost when cropping it for an 8x10 print (5:4 aspect ratio).



To sum up, the answer to the first question is that you will most definitely lose parts of your photo when printing…probably no matter what print size you choose.  The sad reality is that there is no way of getting around this.  However, if you understand this ahead of time, you can plan ahead and make sure to factor that in when composing the photo.  That way when you go to crop your photo when prepping it for print, you can keep all of the desired elements in the photo that you planned.  Also, hopefully this discussion helps you know which ratio to use when cropping your photo depending on the desired print size.

Next week we’ll discuss the other common question when it comes to printing…“so how large can I print this anyway?”

Do you have any success or horror stories?  Feel free to post your comments and questions to this post and I’ll be happy to discuss them.  Happy shooting!


Bryan Rasmussen owns Chiseled Light Photography and is also a freelance photographer for a local newspaper.  Follow him at www.facebook.com/ChiseledLight.  He is also on Instagram, Flickr, and Fine Art America.

1 comment:

  1. Since you are gearing this answer for beginners I think it is important to emphasize that you can always print the whole frame by making the image small enough to fit on the size of paper you want to print on. You will have extra white space on one dimension, but that can always be trimmed.

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