Do you really want to crop me?

Have you ever had a photo enlarged, and wondered why your image looks a little different?  Why the top of someone’s head is missing, or the left shoe is no longer in the image?  It’s all to do with the the aspect ratio of the camera and original image, and the “standard” print sizes offered by photo labs.

I thought I would do a post today about photo printing and a bit of a guide on what to expect, regardless of whether you print images yourself at a lab, or have me or another professional photographer print them for you. Images will not look the same at every print size and some images are better suited to certain print size dimensions (crops).

My camera has an aspect ratio of 2:3, which means a print size of 4 x 6 or 8 x 12 will replicate the original image without any cropping, i.e. it will display the same content as the original.  If you choose a different print size (ratio), the image will need to be cropped and some content will be lost, e.g. 5 x 7, 6 x 8 or 10 x 8.

When a client orders an image for print at a size that does not fit with the original 2:3 ratio, I would crop that image to maintain the integrity of the shot, while aiming for accurate composition and a visually pleasing final image.  That may mean cropping from one edge, but not always.

Here are some image examples to explain:

The black outline shows the original image as a 2:3 ratio and that it would look identical to the original at a 4 x 6 or 8 x 12 print size.

The red shows the 5 x 7 print crop.  The green shows the 6 x 8 print crop and the blue shows the 8 x 10 print crop.  All look a little different, but for this image, with the space around the baby, all crops and print sizes would work.

Here is another image, showing cropping from the bottom edge (to avoid losing the model’s head). In this case, the 4 x 6 and 8 x 12 print sizes are obviously great.

The 8 x 10 (blue) would also work.  However, the 6 x 8 (green) is not ideal, as we are losing her feet, and in the 5 x 7, we crop through her shoe, which makes it not a recommended print size.  This image would work best at the original ratio.

This image of a gorgeous mum-to-be shows how I would crop the image from both sides to maintain the integrity of the image and show the best composition for all the different print sizes.

This image again shows cropping from both edges to maintain the most visually pleasing composition, but you will notice that for some print sizes, this beautiful baby will have her hand and parts of her head cropped out.

I hope this was useful and demonstrates why some print sizes (enlargements) may be different to the original, and not always what you expected.  Not all images will work well cropped to every print size.

My friends and fellow photographers, Rowena Field and Heidi Rookyard, created similar visual guides for their clients.  Thanks ladies for the inspiration.

All content is the copyright of Louise Fletcher Photography.



2 thoughts on “Do you really want to crop me?

  1. Thanks for sharing this Lou! I’m always confused with the sizing of photos. What size do you recommend for canvas printing?

    1. Bobbie, sorry, I have been offline for awhile. Canvas printing can be done in many sizes. The best size would depend on the size of the space you wish to hang it, what else it might be hung with, the image itself. So many factors, no right answer….

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