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The Red River Paper Blog
Red River Paper Blog

How Well Do You Know Your Aspect Ratio?

By Shelly Katz– 

Recently, a puzzling question crossed my desk – yes, it was a Monday.

Question: Do you have a chart of what is the most standard actual print sizes to fit on a certain paper size. EX:  17×22 paper size –  renders a 18×12 print Thanks!

My Reply:  At first all I could say is that any size image up to the size of the paper would surely fit, and although I wasn’t quite sure what the writer was asking, it did get me thinking of what the standard sizes of photographs really are.  Eventually, of course, I found myself searching for where those sizes come from, and why, and that of course led me to think about aspect ratios. Now that’s a question I can research. In an article Graphics Software guru, Sue Chastain writes:

“Aspect ratio is the relationship of an image’s width to height, or its proportions.

“Digital cameras produce files with an aspect ratio of 4:3. But many common photo print sizes have a different aspect ratio. For example, a 4 by 6 print has an aspect ratio of 3:2; an 8 by 10 has an aspect ratio of 5:4.

“When you change the print size of an image and you’re going to a different aspect ratio, make sure the values you enter will accommodate the whole picture, otherwise your print will have gaps along two sides. Of course, the trade off is that a small part of your image will be clipped.

“Take, for example, a typical digital camera file that you want to print at 4 by 6 inches. With aspect ratio restricted, you can either do 6 by 4.5, resulting in a half inch of the height being clipped. Or you could do 4 by 5.333, resulting in a blank strip along the top and bottom edge of the print.

“To avoid having the image clipped by your software, you should crop the photo to the correct aspect ratio, prior to setting the print size. Some software will have preset aspect ratios in the crop tool for common photo print sizes. In Photoshop and Photoshop Elements, you can enter the height and width in the options bar before making a crop selection to crop to a specific aspect ratio–just avoid putting a number in the resolution field if you don’t want the image resampled when you crop it.”

Cornicello Aspect Ratio Image

Image © John Cornicello Photography

Common Aspect Ratios: • Digital Camera Aspect Ratio – Some digital SLR cameras use the 3:2 size as standard, while others use 4:3. To be certain of your camera’s exact Aspect Ratio, measure the relationship of the image’s width to height, or its proportions.

• 35mm Film Still Camera Aspect Ratio – 35 mm film from a still camera measures 24mm x 36mm producing approximately a 1:1.5 Aspect Ratio. Once again, to be certain of your camera’s exact Aspect Ratio, measure the relationship of the image’s width to height, or its proportions.

• Panoramic Sizes generally have an aspect ratio of 2:1 or larger, the image being at least twice as wide as it is high. The resulting images take the form of a wide strip. Some panoramic images have aspect ratios of 4:1 and sometimes 10:1, covering fields of view of up to 360 degrees.

• Greeting Cards – Take into account the image’s aspect ratio when selecting your greeting card size. And finally I found myself actually asking “what are the standard sizes of picture frames and what aspect ratios would fit?” The answer is here:  


“How do I change the print size of a digital photo?”

“Aspect Ratio and How to Crop to the Proper Print Proportions”

Frame Destination