Cropping Guide and Aspect Ratios - St Louis Birth And Family Photographer

Cropping Guide and Aspect Ratios

Have you ever printed your favorite image and you noticed that you were missing an important part of your image or even worse, your heads were cut off?!? You were more than likely printing a 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 and you felt like walmart must have mis-printed your image, but thats not true! For once, walmart didn’t do anything wrong!

Different digital cameras will produce images in different aspect ratios. The aspect ratio describes the relationship between the height and width of the image. For most cameras, they will only have the ability to produce images in a 3:5 aspect ratio. While, the most common aspect ratio is 3:5, some cameras will allow you choose a diffent aspect ratio. All this means is that the height of the camera’s images is 2/3s of the width.

The problem that we run in to when creating an image in a 3:5 aspect ratio, or in any aspect ratio, is that not all print sizes are equal. Here’s a list of different aspect ratios and print sizes:

2 x 2 – 1:1 aspect ratio

4 x 6 – 3:2 aspect ratio

5 x 7 – 7:5 aspect ratio

8 x 10 – 5:4 aspect ratio

The aspect ratio of an 8 x 10 is 4:5, so if you were using a camera with a 3:5 aspect ratio and you wanted to print your image in an 8 x 10, you would be cutting off TWO inches! To give you a better understanding of how these different aspect ratios will affect your images, take a look at the most common print sizes listed below.


You may find that not all images will be negatively affected by different aspect ratios. Depending upon the image, you may be able to crop out unimportant information when you go to print an image, and still create an interesting photograph. For example, a 20 x 40 print of the image shown above gives you a long narrow print, which creates a new and interesting look to the photograph. You will also notice that in the image above, a 5 x 7 print can be adjusted so that the image crops negative space above the subject. However, some close-up images will bring problems when cropping. If you are forced to crop at the subject’s joint’s (knee, ankle, elbow, wrist), the viewer will lose important information, which creates an uninteresting image.

Three ways to overcome the problem of printing images that have a different aspect ratio than your camera:

  1. Determine what print size you will use the most and adjust your camera’s aspect ratio accordingly.
  2. Crop your image before printing so that you can allow important parts of your image to be included in the print.
  3. THINK about what you will be doing with your image! If I know that my clients will want to order a family photo to fit in their 20 x 24 frame above their fireplace; then I will take a step or two back when taking the photo so that I can leave room for cropping to a 20 x 24 size later.


  1. YES, YES, and YES!!!!
    Great info for clients, Kelly!

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A rating of 5 is not high enough for Kelly!! Kelly is an amazing photographer, was absolutely wonderful to work with, and was quick to reply to emails. Shes an upbeat and positive person, which made out photo sessions comfortable and fun!! Kelly is professional in more ways than one and I highly recommend her to anyone in the St. Louis area wanting some maternity and/or family photos taken!

Angela, Family session

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