Aspect Ratio and Prints

It’s quite common for photos to be cropped when printing. This is because the aspect ratio of the picture taken is not the same as the paper that it’s being printed on.

Aspect Ratio

Digital cameras typically take photos with an aspect ratio of either 4:3 or 3:2. These values describe the relationship between the width and height of the photo. Most compact cameras have an aspect ratio of 4:3, whilst most dSLR cameras have a ratio of 3:2. Some cameras also offer other optional aspect ratios, although they may simply describe them as “wide” or “panoramic”, which often refers to a ratio of 16:9, common in HD video recording.

As an example, an image with a 4:3 aspect ratio could be measured in pixels as 400 x 300, 800 x 600 or 2000 x 1500. All of these sizes have the same width to height relationship.

Looking similarly at the sizes of images with a 3:2 ratio, you could have 300 x 200 pixels, 720 x 480 pixels or 2000 x 1333 pixels. Again, in each example, the relationship between the width and height are the same.

4:3 aspect ratio 3:2 aspect ratio

In the above illustration you will see that both images have the same height (165 pixels) but the width is different. The 4:3 image is 220 pixels wide whilst the 3:2 image is 248 pixels wide.

A square image would have an aspect ratio of 1:1. The height and width are both the same, therefore the proportions of the two sides are equal.


Photographic prints however are usually stated in physical sizes, such as 6×4″, 7×5″ and 10×8″. Only the 6×4″ print has an aspect ratio that matches that of a camera, specifically the 3:2 of a dSLR. An enlargement printed on 10×8″ actually has an aspect ratio of 5:4. Wherever the aspect ratio of a print is different from that of the camera, some of the image gets lost – it disappears beyond the top or sides of the print.

Using our 4:3 aspect picture as an example, you will see that if we create a 10×8″ print from it, we will lose a little of the picture off the edges of the print. This would be even more pronounced if we were to use the 3:2 aspect photo taken by a dSLR. If we were to print a 7×5″ picture we would lose part of the top and bottom on the image. Regardless of the aspect ratio of the original photo, most standard print sizes will result in cropping.

Some online print labs offer dSLR friendly print sizes such as 7½x5″, 9×6″ and 12×8″. All of these sizes have an aspect ratio of 3:2 so none of the picture is lost. However, it can be difficult to find frames in these sizes.


The best way to deal with this issue is to allow space around your subject when composing your shots. In other words, don’t get too close. This will give you room to crop your photos so that nothing important is lost.

You can crop your photos using photo editing software such as Photoshop or Picasa. These will allow you to select a print size and create a crop window with the correct proportions. Alternatively, online photo labs often provide the ability to control how a picture is cropped.

The Power of Histograms

One of the features offered by many cameras these days is the ability to display histograms. These can be viewed for a recorded image, or in many cases for a live scene, allowing you to judge the exposure of a picture. So what exactly are histograms?

A histogram shows a graphic representation of the balance of tones across a range from black to white, through the various shades of grey. It shows the relative number of pixels across the range, usually for the full spectrum of light, but often for just red, green or blue – the colours that make up a projected image.

Using a histogram you can judge the exposure of an image – whether it is too bright, too dark, or just right.

Continue reading The Power of Histograms


I took some photos of a friend’s young daughter recently and was very pleased with the results. Although she wasn’t really in the mood to have her photo taken I did manage to capture some very nice shots as she broke into a smile.

Winnats Pass

I took this picture of Winnats Pass in The Peak District whilst holidaying there last year.

I was careful with both my timing and choice of angle so as to hide the fact that there’s actually a road running through it.

Why Use A Professional?

Given that photography has never been more available to the masses, it’s quite legitimate to ask why anyone would pay a professional to take pictures.

There are many keen and competent amateurs and hobbyists out there creating some excellent work and I wouldn’t want to take anything away from their achievements.

What marks out the pro however is the amount of time they have to dedicate to their craft. A professional will have studied and have a sound background in aspects such as composition, lighting, post-production and presentation, not to mention an investment in equipment and facilities. A professional lives and breathes photography.

When photographing people in a formal situation, a career photographer will have patience and an ability to command whatever circumstances he or she is presented with. This is especially true of occasions such as weddings where you have to get it right first time, regardless of the environment. On other occasions, relaxed and informal, the photographer might have to blend into the background, being as unobtrusive as possible.

Overall, a professional photographer has to produce work that is of value. Work that people are prepared to pay for. To do this he or she has perform to a standard that stands out.

Gem & Alex

These two girls were a joy to work with. Both relaxed and at ease in front of the camera, they gave me a great afternoon’s photography.

We spent a couple of hours shooting on Hartham Common and at St.Leonard’s Church and I was really pleased with the results.

You can find the complete gallery of photos from this session on my website at

Damages by Stephen Thompson

Playwright Stephen Thompson once acted on the stage of The Little Theatre in Hertford, before studying at RADA and embarking on a successful career as a writer. His first play, Damages, has now been brought to the same venue, care of director Barry Lee.

Andy Nash, Emma Williams and Jim Markey in Damages by Stephen Thompson

The play was first performed at the Bush Theatre in 2004, having been commissioned with the support of the Peggy Ramsay Award.

I always enjoy photographing Barry Lee’s productions as not only do they feature fine performances but inspired and detailed sets as well.

Tollesbury Sail Lofts

The Essex coast offers the photographer a wealth of opportunities and Tollesbury is certainly no exception.

Situated on the salt marshes at the mouth of the River Blackwater, there is a large sailing community here, the village having gained a reputation as a yachting centre in the early 20th century.

These sail lofts were built around the turn of the century and served large yachts owned by wealthy Edwardians, who would sail them down to the Mediterranean skippered by local seafarers.