Printing like a pro - Choosing the best crop size to suit your image

This is the first in my ‘Printing like a pro’ series, which aims to help you fill your house with images that you love, whether you’re printing through your photographer or traversing the printing world yourself.

Back in the day we’d take our roll of film in to be developed and get a nice pack full of 6x4” prints to take away with us. After a while they might get put into a photo album, or maybe even a frame, but a lot got stashed away to be flicked through on a rainy day. These days most of our photos sit on a hard drive or phone and never get printed at all which I have to admit, breaks my heart a little bit!

The world of printing is full of trips and hurdles that often result in us getting images with cut off heads, poor colouring, fading inks and so many options our heads start to explode. This blog is going to walk you through the first step of that, aspect ratios. Most of the time ‘ratios’ are something we leave back in secondary school maths, but printing your photos is one of those times where it actually comes in handy! But don’t worry, I’ve done the hard work for you. Here’s your foolproof guide to the most common options.

Aspect Ratio - 6x4

Almost all cameras take photos with a 6x4 ratio. This means if you want ALL of your image to be printed, you need to your print to be printed at this ratio, which includes print sizes like 3x2”, 6x4”, 12x8” and 24x16”. If your photo is an extreme close up or has people right up to the edges you don’t want to cut off, I’d recommend going for one of these sizes. When you print your photo in any other print sizes some of the image has to be cropped off in order to ‘fit’, but with a 6x4 ratio print it can all be printed.

Here are some examples of images at their standard, 6x4 ratio. No cropping at all.

Demetrious--ERP-2.jpg
HW--ERP-59.jpg
Lovato--ERP-6.jpg
Schoolport--ERP-21.jpg

Aspect Ratio - 7x5

Just because cameras shoot at 6x4 doesn’t mean that’s always the best printing size! Sometimes an image is more powerful if it allows you to get in a bit ‘closer’. For example, I particularly like 7x5” prints rather than 6x4” prints for smaller frames around my house as they can create a bit more impact. The 7x5 aspect ratio has very little cropping on images, so is only an issue if there are details right at the edges of the frame. Prints with this aspect ratio include 7x5”, 14x10” and 28x20”. Take a look at the examples below to see if this works for you, these aren’t to scale and only show how much would be cropped off your 6x4 image.

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Aspect Ratio - 8x10

This is both the harshest crop I offer and also one of my absolute favourites. I would call this a ‘Medium’ print, it always looks beautiful and lets all the details shine through. But, in order to do that, it really crops that long edge. Look out for photos with details that won’t be lost if one end of the longer edge is cut off and you’ll have some winners! Sizes include 4x5”, 8x10” and 16x20”. Here are some examples of images that both do and don’t work as an 8x10 - see if you can see why. (Hover over the image to see my opinion.)

This image works pretty well as an 8x10. You still get a good amount of the background included but you get nice and close to the subjects.

This image works pretty well as an 8x10. You still get a good amount of the background included but you get nice and close to the subjects.

This photo is a little tight for an 8x10 crop as there are LOTS of details at the edges of the image. When it’s cropped it looks a bit messy and you’ve lost the poor little one’s Ears! This image would work better at a 7x5 or even 6x4.

This photo is a little tight for an 8x10 crop as there are LOTS of details at the edges of the image. When it’s cropped it looks a bit messy and you’ve lost the poor little one’s Ears! This image would work better at a 7x5 or even 6x4.

This is an image I would absolutely love to print at 8x10. You can still see lots of the texture on the sheet and there’s a good amount of space around the baby. Ideal!

This is an image I would absolutely love to print at 8x10. You can still see lots of the texture on the sheet and there’s a good amount of space around the baby. Ideal!

This one’s tricky. You could definitely choose to print this photo at 8x10. You don’t lose too much of the background and you get in close to the subject. This is more a case of personal preference, but I wouldn’t choose to print this image as an 8x10 as I would prefer to keep more of the background in the final photo. Some images just benefit from the environment more than others and I think this is one of them! You wouldn’t be wrong to disagree though.

This one’s tricky. You could definitely choose to print this photo at 8x10. You don’t lose too much of the background and you get in close to the subject. This is more a case of personal preference, but I wouldn’t choose to print this image as an 8x10 as I would prefer to keep more of the background in the final photo. Some images just benefit from the environment more than others and I think this is one of them! You wouldn’t be wrong to disagree though.

Aspect Ratio - 12x16

This is a great crop for images with landscapes in the background, or group shots with lots of people in them. It still crops the long edge slightly but also gives you nice big prints to create real impact on your walls. I have three prints of this size on my wall with landscapes from a trip to Iceland which I absolutely love! Sizes in this ratio include 6x8”, 12x16”, 15x20” and 24x32”. Here are some photos which work really well with this aspect ratio. Remember, these examples aren’t at all to scale, they’re just showing you the cropping.

12x16 example (1).png
12x16 example.png
12x16 example (2).png

So there you go, it’s as simple as that! You should be able to decide whether your picture would look best at 6x4 or at 8x10, so the next step is to work out how to display it. There are so many different options when it comes showing off your images. Gallery wall? Large canvas? Pegged prints? Photo album? Statement frames? My next blog, displaying your images, is coming soon!