WHAT IS ASPECT RATIO?
What do you know about aspect ratio? How often do you consider it when shooting?
If your answers to both questions are "not so much," read on because the aspect ratio is critical in still photography. Here's a simple primer on aspect ratio and its importance on your images.
Aspect ratio is the term used to describe the ratio between the width and the height of an image. Many photographers don't usually pay much attention to it because the aspect ratio depends on the camera you use.
If you've ever gone to resize or crop an image, you've likely seen it. Once upon a time, it was determined by the file size. Most recently, it came down to 35mm photography. Today, it's the camera sensor's determine the aspect ratio. Most digital SLR’s have an aspect ratio of 3:2, same as 35mm film, and most will allow you to change the aspect ratio.
While most cameras today shoot a 3:2 aspect ratio, most print sizes are in the 5:4 format. What this means is that once you go to print on traditional photography paper, you'll need to crop. And cropping can distort an image if you're not careful.
For example, printing a 3:2 image on 10" x 8" paper means losing 1/2" on the short side. As any photographer knows, cropping can make a big difference to the image. And, this is why considering your aspect ratio matters, mainly as a commercial photographer!
With still camera photography, the most common aspect ratios typically seen with still photography are 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9. Less common, but still used, are 5:3, 5:4, and 1:1.
Most commercial photographers learn fairly early on to leave some extraneous space around their subject. In other words, don't include anything critical toward the outer edges of your frame or you risk losing it later during printing.
Study your subject and goal for the image before you shoot to allow yourself some wiggle room.
Knowing what your image is going to be used for can be helpful to how you frame the shot.
Know your camera, its pixel count, and aspect ratio. Better yet, learn how to adjust the rate.
Aspect Ratio Calculators