Cropping Ratios

When it comes to cropping photos for printing, you need to be aware of one important thing:

NOT ALL CROPS ARE CREATED EQUAL

I am not sure why it never occurred to me (especially as someone who was always good in math!) that when it comes to photo ratios, there is a huge difference in your final photos. An enlarged 4×6 does not turn into an 8×10. Or a 5×7. Nope, the ratios are different and therefore your photos will look different.

Let’s look at some examples before we talk about a few ways to deal with this issue.

Here is a photo of a bride and her sweet and adorable daughter. I took it at a wedding I was photographing. Now, I adore this photo and I am guessing the bride will want this one enlarged (I sure would!) However, I can’t just crop to an 8×10 and call it done!

My camera takes pictures in a 2 to 3 ratio, which is equivalent to a 4×6. You can see the outline in yellow. However, if I were to prepare the image for enlargement and cropped to a 5×7 (the orange lines), I’ve got some length cut off! The result is even worse for an 8×10 (the blue lines).

Now for this particular photo, the end result wouldn’t be too bad. There is a lot of negative space in the image, so cutting off a bit wouldn’t be too big of a deal. But let’s look at another example:

This photo creates much more of a problem. Because the photo was a fairly tight crop, to lose part of the image on either end would really change the look of the photo. I could definitely take a bit off each side and try to even it out, but in the process I will lose some of the photo. The background is part of the story of this particular image and to crop it would take away part of what I was trying to communicate.

In this third example, the problem is even worse. I could get away with a 5×7 crop but an 8×10 crop just wouldn’t be possible without chopping off heads or feet!

If you plan to have your photos enlarged and printed (which I would highly recommend!), then you need to pay close attention to cropping rations. Here are some things that you can do to combat the problem.

1. Be aware that the problem exists. This is definitely step number one!

2. When shooting, leave room for cropping. I am notorious for tight in-camera crops. I need to remember to leave myself room so that if I want to enlarge (or a client wants to enlarge), I am able to do so without losing any important part of the image.

3. Stay away from “regular” print sizes. Although 5x7s and 8x10s have always been the go-to sizes for printing, it doesn’t mean that we are stuck with them. You can purchase frames in other 3:2 ratios such as 8×12 and 20×30.

4. Decide on a print size based on your photo. On some pictures, the crop won’t change the look of an image (see first image below). On other photos, it will make a big difference (see second image below).