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Cropping Explained | Understanding Cropping When Ordering Prints

I have been meaning to write a post about cropping for awhile now.  Ordering photos can sometimes be a little confusing for people when it comes to picking the right size, and knowing how things might crop.  The following information will apply to most standard prints orders that were produced with digital SLRs or 35mm film cameras.  There may be some slight variations with digital SLRs depending on sensor size, but for the most part whether they are full frame or cropped sensors they will print at pretty much the same aspect ratio (3:2), with the exceptions of a couple of brands like Olympus and Panasonic which are 4:3.  Continuum shoots with Nikon, so we are in the 3:2 camp. I hate talking about math, so I’d rather just show you some examples of what various sized prints will look like cropped.  We’re going to take a look at the most common American print sizes from 4×6 to 16×24.  If you’re ordering larger than a 16×24 and are wondering how things crop beyond that, feel free to email me (and high five for being in the big print club).

Okay this is our original image resized for the web, but aspect ratio unchanged.  Notice the attractive people I spent my New Years Eve with.  In our examples we’ll be cropping on the right, which sucks for Melissa.  For the sizes where there is virtually no cropping whatsoever I will put an * asterisk in front of the size.

* 4×6  Almost identical to the original.  You lose a couple of pixel lines but it’s essentially unchanged.

5×7  Definitely some cropping, we lose half of Melissa here.  5x7s aren’t terrible cropping offenders, but you have to be careful in choosing a photo that works for it.

* 6×9  We’re all good here.  NYE still in full effect.

8×10  Ack! 8x10s are the worst offenders.  We lose all of Melissa and Rachel says goodbye to her left ear and a bunch of hair.  Unfortunately off the shelf frames favor this completely bogus size.

* 8×12  Okay that’s much better, back to the photo the way it was meant to be seen.  Now most people sadly consider this size to be an enlargement.  Photographers look at them like they are wallets, but that’s a different blog post.  Anyhow I’ve heard people argue that you can’t find 8×12 frames anywhere.  But seriously just Google “8×12 frame,” you will get results!

11×14  Slightly better than an 8×10, at least Rachel didn’t lose her hearing altogether.  But we still lost Melissa entirely.  No bueno.  Outlaw 11x14s!

* 12×18  No cropping here!

16×20 Back to the same 8×10 type cropping grossness.

* 16×24  The crew is back and looking good.

So in review when you are planning on your print orders, consider the size of your frames.  If you haven’t purchased the frames yet, buy frames with knowledge.  If you can, avoid sizes that crop, especially with photos like our example that are completely filled with attractive people.

– Josh

  • milsztof - January 4, 2012 - 4:21 am

    Wow, great post. Very practical tips.ReplyCancel

  • Paul Mozell Photography - January 11, 2012 - 5:13 pm

    Yes! Cropping and aspect ratio can sure be sore points were clients’ expectations are not being met – or perceived so.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Darby Photographer - January 12, 2012 - 11:26 pm

    Great post. I think it is wonderful to educate your clients and you have done this in such a fun and practical way.ReplyCancel

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