Image Aspect Ratios & Pring Sizing Explained

Why certain images might not work for your space…

Often times when purchasing artwork, an incredibly important factor can be easily overlooked. I receive many inquiries for my work where a potential client wants to purchase a specific image at a specific size, but many times the desired image unfortunately just won’t work at the requested size. The issue boils down to the image aspect ratio.

What is image aspect ratio?


The aspect ratio 
of an image describes the proportional relationship between its width and its height.  For an x:y aspect ratio, no matter how big or small the image is, if the width is divided into x units of equal length and the height is measured using this same length unit, the height will be measured to be y units.

The aspect ratio of image is primarily determined by the dimensions of a camera’s sensor. All of my prints have been produced on either a 35mm crop sensor or full-frame sensor, both with an aspect ratio of 3:2. So each time I’m clicking the shutter, I’m producing an image that is 3:2 in the horizontal orientation or if I rotate my camera vertically, I’m producing a 2:3 image.

It’s important to not that image aspect ratios concern the relationship of the width to the height and not an image’s actual size.

Aspect Ratio + Intent

 

That 3:2 image ratio often times defines my final artwork not only because of the technical aspect of my gear, but from a compositional standpoint, I have purposefully determined what gets included and excluded within the limited field of view of my camera’s sensor.

“What the heck are you talking about?” You may ask.

 

Take this image (below) of the Maroon Bells for example. It was shot with a Sony A7RII; A full-frame camera that produces images at a ratio of 3:2. Therefore, this image was created at a 3:2 ratio that was first defined by the camera specifications. However, besides those technical specifications, it is also defined my chosen composition to fill the entire frame with that I wanted to include from the scene while excluding what I didn’t. It’s a purposefully balanced image and if changed (i.e. cropped to a different ratio), that balance would be uneven.

So let’s say you LOVE that image of the Maroon Bells above (thank you!!) and you want it on your wall. You take steps in figuring out the right size you would like in your home and ask me for a print that is 24″x36″. Well, unfortunately that is not an ideal size for this particular image because 24×36 is a 2:3 ratio and the image you’d like to purchase is 3:2. If I were to print this image at 24×36, nearly half the width would need to be cropped off, which would completely change the image’s original intent.

Then let’s say you find another wall where more of a landscape orientation will work and you would like to print the Maroon Bells image at 48″x20″. Well, unfortunately that might not work either. To achieve that size, nearly half the height of the image would need to be cropped off in some fashion, once again completely changing the image’s original intent.

 

Example of the 24″ x 36″ crop

Example of the 48″ x 20″ crop

My art is produced at a ratio of 3:2 based on both technical specifications and artistic determination.

So I can’t buy what I want?


Well… maybe, but maybe not.

Say for instance you want an image printed at 60″x38″ instead of the standard 3:2 size of 60″x40″, I am confident could figure that out and make it work for you. However, if you want that same print at 60″x18″ instead of 60″x40″, well that most likely will not work because too much of the image would be lost.

Image Deterioration Concerns

Not only is the image’s original intent a concern when working with sizing and ratios, but image deterioration can come into play, particularly with larger prints. Shooting at 3:2 and filling the frame with my planned subject (original intent) allows me to take full advantage of the incredible sensor technology within my cameras and produce the highest image quality. If I need to begin to crop an image away from the original ratio, It begins to decrease the megapixels available for print.

At 3:2, my Sony A7RIII is producing images that are 7952x5304px or if I rotate my camera vertically for 2:3, 5304x7952px. Let’s say I want to print an image at 60×40″ (3:2):

  • If I use a picture that was shot at the original 3:2, I would have the full 7952x5304px available for reproduction.
  • However, if I chose a 2:3 image to still be printed at 60″x40″, that image would need to be cropped to the proper 3:2 ratio. When cropped, I would only be left with an image that is 4016x2678px. Therefore, there are less pixels available when producing my desired size which could result in an inferior print.

Summary


I know this might seem overly and maybe unnecessarily complicated, especially since each situation can be different. However, I hope this at least provides you with some useful information in choosing and sizing that might fit your needs. In general, if you have a vertical space where the height is more than the width, a vertical image will work best. If the space has a width greater than the height, then choosing a horizontal image will be best.

I Have Some Solutions!

In the One for the Road Photography online shop, I do only have print sizes available that meet the 3:2 ratio. However, If you need a particular size print or wall art, please contact me and I’d be happy to look and see if I can make that work for you. I have also created specific gallery collections within the shop that can guide you images that might work better for a particular size and ratio that you have in mind:

These images will all be 3:2 and work best with sizing that fits very closely with that ratio. The standard sizes available directly through my online shop are 12×8″, 18×12″, 24×16″, 30×20″, 36×24″, 45×30″, and 60×40″. If you have a desired size that is close to one of those, I can probably crop the image to work.

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These image will all be at 2:3 and work best with  sizing that fits very closely with that ratio. For instance, 24″x36″ is 2:3 and would be perfect with one of the images here. The standard sizes available directly through my online shop are 8×12″, 12×18″, 16×24″, 20×30″, 24×36″, 30×45″, and 40×60″. If you have a desired size that is close to one of those, I can probably crop the image to work.

This is a gallery full of images that have been produced outside of the 3:2 camera limitation, typically by stitching multiple images together to form a panorama. The specific ratios within this gallery will vary, but typically will be close to 3:1 or 4:1 so if you’re looking for an image that will be very long, but not too tall (such as 60×18″ referenced earlier!), this would be a great gallery to choose an image from.

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