Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Printing images: aspect ratio problems not just for digital photography!

Apple - Discussions - Setting camera so you don't have to crop: "Printing is the curse of digital photography.

Not true. Printing is the curse of ALL photography and has been for a hundred years. 35 mm. has been the most popular format for probably fifty years. Until very recently (with 4X6 paper), there was NO paper available that matched the 3X2 aspect ratio. We had a choice of 3.5X5 or 5X7 or 8X10. The 8X10 was perfect for a 4X5 view camera used by professional portrait photographers. The smaller sizes were 'almost' the 4X5 aspect ratio.

In the old days, the labs did the cropping and most snapshooters never realized it. Now, the burden is on us.
Although I personally prefer prints, photos on the screen are gradually becoming popular. The 4X3 aspect ratio matches computer screens. Unfortunately, it's good only for landscape shots. Portrait shots have blank space on both sides of the image. Oh well, can't have everything.

Personally, my wish is for everything - cameras, film, paper, computer screens, etc. - to match the 3X2 format (I've been shooting 35 mm. for over 40 years). However that's not going to happen. The best thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from! "

A correction to a claim I made that printing was the curse of digital photography!

Comparing these ratios we can sort them as follows. It turns out that 5x7 prints are mid-way crop between 35mm and most digital. So printing at 5x7 may be a better choice for many digital prints. These are a bit big for many albums, but if one only prints a few images maybe it's not a bad choice.

4x5: 0.80 (view camera and 8x10 prints)
3x4: 0.75 (most digital cameras and Apple's PhotoBook)
5x7: 0.71 (print size)
3.5x5: 0.7 (print size)
2x3: 0.67 (35mm and 4x6 prints)

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