With today’s cameras, it’s possible to create a perfect composition when you are shooting. If you are careful, you can include everything you want in the shot and leave out everything you don’t want. This is probably what has led to the myth that good photographers never crop their photos. But, when you are shooting photos to print, this is a bad approach to take.
Here is a full-sized version of the photo at the top. As you move the slider from left to right, you’ll see that the sides of the roofline get cut off when I crop the photo to 5 x 7, which is a popular frame size.
Your need to print some of your photos!
First of all, it’s important to print and frame some of your photos! Nothing will get you more excited about your photography. Yes, you may have school photos of your kids hanging on your refrigerator door, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about enlarging photos you’ve taken and printing them. Then, you can place them in frames that stand on tables or bookshelves or even hang on the wall.
This pensive long-tailed macaque monkey from the Inata Monkey Forest, in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia looks so much cuter with his tuft of hair and his toes! As you swipe to the right, you’ll see them disappear as I crop for an 8 x 10 frame.
These photos can be portraits of your family or friends. They can also be memories of places you’ve visited or vacations you’ve taken. These memories are especially important today, when people in many parts of the world can’t travel due to the pandemic. Being in lockdown is the perfect time to look through your photos on your computer and print some of them. In fact, you could buy a few frames and rotate your favorite photos in them.
The problem with frames
Unfortunately, as you can see from the photos so far, most common frames don’t come in the proper aspect ratio for photos taken with modern digital cameras. This means that when you enlarge and print your photo, it won’t be a size that easily fits into a frame. I’ve included links to a few articles that explore aspect ratio and picture frame dimensions at the end of this post, in case you want more information.
Today’s common frame sizes are:
5 x 7, 8 x 10, 11 x 14 and 16 x 20 inches
As you can see, this photo of Multnoma Falls loses some vital detail when it is cropped to fit into an 11×14 frame. It has no top and no bottom!
This is why it’s a good idea to include additional space around your subject when you are shooting photos to print. Then, you can crop the photo to fit the frame, either in software on your computer, or using good-old-fashioned scissors when you frame the shot.
I shot this photo of my husband twice. In the first shot, I’ve stepped back to include more space around him. In the second shot, I stepped closer to compose it perfectly in the camera. When I crop the first shot for an 8 x 10 frame, he looks fine. But, as you can see, when I crop the closer shot for an 8 x 10 frame, he loses some vital parts of his body. 😉
Today’s cameras produce file sizes with enough resolution to crop, enlarge, and print with no problem. Yes, this is true even for the newer iPhones!
But where do you need to include that space? In general, you’ll need more space along the length of the photo. However, just to complicate matters a little more, different camera makes and models use different aspect ratios, so you really need to experiment with your own camera.
Have cameras changed?
Before DSLRs, we had film SLRs, which also allowed you to compose your shot through the lens. But, prior to SLRs becoming popular, composing was more difficult, especially if you were shooting a closeup. What you saw through your viewfinder was slightly different than what the lens would “see” and capture.
It was quite possible that you would cut off your subject’s ear or worse. A wise photographer left a little wiggle room. SLRs and DSLRs may have made it easier to compose the shot, but they have left us with problems when we crop our photo to fit into common frames.
Now it’s your turn.
Choose a few of your favorite photos to print. Then, in photo software, select the crop tool and play around with the different common frame sizes. See what gets cropped off. Hopefully, you’ll be able to print some of them with no vital missing parts!
What if you find photos that you really love and want to print but which can’t be enlarged and cropped to common frame sizes? There is an alternative. You can have them custom framed. But, going forward, why not allow a little extra room to allow for cropping when you are shooting photos to print?
The frame sizes I’ve listed are common in the United States where we still measure in inches. What are the common frame sizes in other parts of the world? Do common frames come in sizes that fit photos taken with modern cameras? Please comment!
Here’s a link to a post I wrote about Taking Your Own Family Photos.
Picture Frame Dimensions Explained discusses frame sizes as well as mat board sizes for the frames.
This Wikipedia article explains the Single-Lens Reflex Camera and what came before it.