Square peg, round hole

…I hear a lot of confusion about the following subject: Cropping. And a lot of wishful thinking.

For example. People shoot a 4×6 shaped image (that is what your camera probably produces with its 3:2 sensor, after all!), and now want to print it as an 8×10 but without either “cropping off feet” or “having white edges on the side”.

Not! Possible!

It is one or the other. To understand why, just imagine for a moment that your camera produces, say, square images. You are saying “I want to put that square image on a rectangular piece of photo paper, but without either trimming or white edges”. Well, you can presumably see that this is by definition impossible. You either lose part of your image, or you get white sides.

Here’s an original image, shot closely cropped:

Original Image

And here the same image cropped to 8.5×11:

Image cropped to 8.5 x 11

Unless I had shot it wider, I cannot crop that to 8.5 x 11 – let alone to square – without losing important parts. Cropping means cutting!

TIP: Every time it gets confusing, imagine you want a square print. How would you do that?

So what do you do if you do want 8×10 prints, say, and your camera produces 3:2 (i.e. 4×6) images?

You have three separate options:

  1. Shoot the way you want. Now print on the 8×10 paper – but you will get white edges around two of the sides. Cut those off. Of course you no longer have an 8×10 print, but you can at least use 8×10 paper!
  2. Or shoot wider, then before printing, crop to 8×10. This will involve cutting off part of the photo, hence “shoot wider”.
  3. Make the image wider in Photoshop, i.e. “add stuff on the outside so have more to crop”. This is laborious and not easy, and not always possible.

There are no other options. Square peg, round hole!


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