Understanding photo crops seems like a no-brainer to a wedding photographer, but I’ve quickly come to realize that clients don’t speak our language on a regular basis and, therefore, may not be quite as familiar with this idea! Before we delve in, I think two phrases need to be defined:
Aspect Ratio: The relationship between the width of an image to the height of an image, typically express as Width:Height. For example a 4 x 6 image has a 3:2 ratio; a 5 x 7 image has a 7:5 ratio; and an 8 x 10 has a 5:4 ratio.
Cropping: The removal of part of an image to improve framing, accentuate the subject, or change an aspect ratio.
All of my images are photographed and delivered at a 3:2 ratio because a 4 x 6 image is the most common print and frame size. However, when it comes to printing your photos, you may wish to purchase sizes outside of this set ratio in other popular frame sizes, such as 5 x 7 or 8 x 10. As you go to place your order, whether, through my lab or a consumer lab, you will find that part of the image needs to cropped or removed to fit in this new aspect ratio. The reason for that is simple: math! Okay, okay, for those of you who don’t think math is simple, let me explain a bit further. Think of the aspect ratio numbers as constraints; they are pre-defined “boxes” and your image will need to be cropped to fit within those constraints because 3:2 can never equal 5:4.
For most images, cropping to fit an aspect ratio will have a minor effect on the overall image. But for some, depending on how tight the original crop may be, this could mean cutting off feet or part of a head that is essential to the overall composition of the image. So when clients ask, “How do I ensure this 8 x 10 image doesn’t cut off our feet?”, sometimes the answer simply is you can’t! That being said, I always recommend clients order their images directly through their wedding gallery because I have final approval before the order goes off to the printer. This means I will personally review each and every order, adjusting the images as necessary for the most flattering crop. At a consumer lab, they will just takes an equal amount off the top and bottom of an image until it fits which can end up being no good!
And because some people are visual, below is a guide to exactly how much of an image is cropped at the different aspect ratios.