Five years ago; still current

And still this is current! A question I answered years ago here and on another forum bears a repeat here. The photographer asked:

I just had a client order an 8×10 of a picture but when I crop it in Photoshop, it goes beyond the picture. (like it only fits for a 4×6 or something) What do I do?!?

A common question. For some reason known only to the good Lord, cameras use a 3:2 aspect ratio, while prints, frames, camera stores, and so on usually use 8×10 (i.e. 4×5) or 5×7, which are entirely different aspect ratios.

This means when you print, you have to do one of only three possible options:

  1. Crop off part of the image;
  2. Leave white bands on the sides;
  3. As in 2, but fill those two white bands with fake picture (what Photoshop calls “content aware fill”).

For methods 1 and 2, you probably want to use Lightroom, not Photoshop: in Photoshop you get burdened with having to know the picture size (pixels, DPI/PPI) when all you want to do at this point is set the aspect ratio. In Lightroom, you can simply set the aspect ratio (like “8×10”) without yet having to worry about the size you will eventually want to print at.

For method 3, however, you do need to use Photoshop. You expand the canvas to the size you want, then fill the white areas using that “content aware fill”, and adjust as needed.

But why is this all necessary? I have many people asking me this with a certian degree of perplexity.

Simply because you cannot fit a square peg snugly into a round hole.

To help understand, imagine if the print the client wanted was square. Does your camera take square pictures? Probably not. So to print square you either need to crop, or have white edges (or fill the edges with fictitious material).

Last tips:

  • This has nothing to do with picture size, or with things like DPI/PPI. It is simply about the shape of the picture (square, rectangular, etc).
  • I typically crop to the aspect ratio I like – not to the one dictated by the frame makers of this world.
  • That said, it is often wise to shoot a little wide, then crop later – just in case of this kind of aspect ratio nonsense getting in the way.

Have fun shooting!


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