Photo Aspect Ratios For Business
Whether it’s running your Instagram account, enhancing your website, or simply finessing your LinkedIn profile, good photography is at the heart of modern marketing activities for business. And understanding standard photo aspect ratios is a must for small business owners and online marketers. Even if you are providing photography services, you need to communicate and market effectively and ensure your clients understand the nuances of aspect ratios and print sizes.
Print Sizes vs Aspect Ratios
Before we needed to worry about online images, most people were comfortable with the process of purchasing photographic prints. Confusion actually lies in the difference between print sizes and aspect ratios. Print sizes tend to be understood well, because it is easier to visualise overall print area: the comparative print sizes below highlight that the 10×8” print (80 square inches) is more than the double the area of the 7×5” print (35 square inches). It is fairly intuitive to assess whether a particular print size will work well above the TV; or whether people’s expressions in a large group photo will be clearly detailed enough.
This doesn’t really help when it comes to online images though, because it is a different concept to the print above your TV. The size of it depends on the device being used to view the image. This is where photo aspect ratios come in.
Aspect Ratios Explained
In its simplest form, a print aspect ratio is simply a measurement of its width compared to its height, in the form of a ratio. For example, a full frame image taken from a SLR camera, without any cropping, is in the ratio 3:2. Or expressed another way, the width of the image is 1.5 times the height of the image.
How does aspect ratios relate to cropping? The image below is a full frame 3:2 image. Going back to the print medium briefly, if we produced this as a 6×4” print, it would look perfect – just the same as the whole image as we see it below. But what if we wanted this image in another common print format – a 10×8”? This would unfortunately cut off an important part of the composition. The reason is that, although the 10×8” print is significantly larger than a 6×4”, its aspect ratio is 5:4. In other words, the larger 10×8” print’s aspect ratio is squarer (sometimes described as fatter).
What about the two other common small print formats – the 7×5” and 8×6”? They are more elongated than the 10×8” but squarer than the 6×4”. If you remember about fractions and ratios from school, these two prints sizes have image ratios of 5.6:4 and 5.3:4, which clearly lie between 6:4 and 5:4. If this seems more confusing, it’s probably to think in terms of the width as a multiple of the height (or just refer to this table below!).
(The chart may me reproduced on other website posts providing this page is linked with an acknowledgement to Click Republic).
What does this mean for in practice for printing images (or cropping them for the correct aspect ratio for your website)? Clearly not every image will work for all ratios. Some care needs to be taken when deciding on print size because they have different ratios. Many online printing labs will let customers crop and preview the print before ordering. Make sure your clients take the time to use this facility. Sometimes, this may actually allow and encourage you to be bolder and more creative with your cropping. For example, a squarer crop of the full image might cut off a limb in a portrait, and make the composition look awkward. But using a tighter cropped version of the same aspect ratio that frames just the head and shoulders of an image (and cuts out all of the limbs altogether) might look equally as striking as the whole image.
Similarly, if you are comfortable using photo editing software, try to avoid just uploading the whole image to a social media platform hoping that its automated software will somehow get it right. Instead find out the required aspect ratio and use that ratio to experiment and find the best crop for the image. For example, LinkedIn advises to use images 400×400 pixels for profile pictures, but the important point is that the aspect ration is 1:1.
Sometimes images would work fairly well in 7:5 and 10:8 formats.
But this example image below has a strong 2:1 panoramic (sometimes called “letterbox”) composition.
We could distort the image into a 10:8 ratio (Image A below). Not a good look! Or we could add a lot of white space to achieve a 10:8 aspect ratio (Image B). Better, but still not good!
In fact, this image should be cropped a 2:1 ratio. If you were thinking in terms of photographic printing, this would work as a 10×5” or 20×10” for example. In terms of office presentation, you might ask a professional framing company to make a wall display product. A bespoke frame is constructed around the print.
If you or your client has purchased a 10×5” print yourself, the main problem is that it is very difficult to buy a budget off-the-shelf frame for this size. A work-around is to buy a bespoke mount. In this case, you might specify the mount to contain a 10×5” aperture with overall dimensions of 14×11” (a frame size that is relatively easy to purchase in the high street). Frame Lizard, for example, allows you to easily specify bespoke sizes and colours online.