Do you want to know what “Aspect Ratio” is? Wondering about its importance and how it is used in photography? Then read this blog until the end, and you shall get a clear idea of the concept and how it has been and still is, a vital component of photography.

photo aspect ratio

What is aspect ratio in photography?

Photo aspect ratio is used to describe an image’s width and height in ratio form. It is an extremely vital element in photography, mostly with regards to photo composition and printing. It is mainly determined by a camera sensor’s size, calculated from the height and width of an image.

Despite being a crucial component of photography, it is not much discussed, and not many people understand the concept fully. There are some common photography aspect ratios that aesthetically and technically enhance an image, and today we’ll discuss all of them.

Photo aspect ratio – mostly used for photography printing

Aspect ratio mostly had its uses when people mainly used to print their photographs; however, with the advent of digital cameras and Smartphones, printing one’s photos has reduced comparatively. Now that we have Smartphones with as much as 256 GB of internal storage, and also that millions of people upload their pictures on social media platforms where the images stay forever – so why bother printing! Hence, the topic of still image aspect ratio doesn’t get much attention.

However, understanding the concept can help a photographer take attractive photos, and also satisfy the clients who prefer photo album in hard copy version.

So how do you know which aspect ratio works the best and can improve the composition of the image you take? Let’s break down the best aspect ratios for photos, why they are so commonly used, and the level of importance they have in photography.

Some common photo aspect ratio standards

You may come across these common photo aspect ratios for print, on cameras or screens, as well as while editing images on any photo editing software. These width and height proportions vary for different scenarios.

  • 1:1

    The 1:1 aspect ratio, also known as the square format, has been an integral part of photography, especially since the earliest versions of large format cameras and the instant-film Polaroid cameras.

    Nonetheless, with the advent of digital cameras the 1:1 format has gained much popularity. This specific aspect ratio format denotes that the width and the height are in equal proportions. This makes it a pretty straightforward image aspect ratio format.

  • 3:2

    This is one of the most widely used aspect ratios for digital photography and art prints. Previously deeply connected with 35mm analog film photography, professional DSLRs with APS-C sensors still have 3:2 as their standard image aspect ratio. Photographers using full-frame cameras still set them at this dimension while shooting, making it an industry standard.

    The reason is the adequate amount of room for image cropping this format gives during the post-processing phase.

  • 4:3

    Ideally, the 4:3 aspect ratios have been the quintessential viewing standard for older televisions, computer monitors, etc. However, this format is still considered one of digital photography’s most common aspect ratios, mostly because the smaller sensors used in the new-age Smartphones, and compact digital cameras have 4:3 as their standard aspect ratio.

    Since the launch of Four Thirds and Micro-Four Thirds cameras by Kodak and Olympus in 2002 and 2008, respectively, 4:3 has been their standard aspect ratio format.

  • 4:5

    The 4:5 proportions are used by 4×5 and 8×10 film cameras for printing. It is relatively a new addition to the common aspect ratio standards. 4:5 got its popularity when Instagram adopted it as its vertical portrait ratio, resulting in more screen space and attention from the viewers. 4:5 is also common for micro four-thirds cameras and digital photographers, who mainly upload videos and pictures on Instagram.

  • 5:4

    Mainly used by photographers 2-3 decades back, the 5:4 aspect ratios now remain the common aspect ratio for portrait photos printing (8″x10″ and 16″x20″). In the present times of digital sensors, the usage of this aspect is rare.

    Photographers in the early 2000s who did large format photography using 5×4 films leveraged this aspect ratio format.

  • 16:9

    The 16:9 aspect ratios is mostly associated with films and cinematic videos owing to its wide rectangle shape that captures a wider area than other aspect ratios. Thus, it works great with multiple devices for viewing videos. This makes it the benchmark dimension for movies, TV, online video content, etc.

    This format gives depth to a visual and is therefore the favorite of movie makers and content creators alike. So much so that it left the 4:3 format behind at the end of 2000 and became the universal standard for numerous screens and medium-format cameras. Most DSLRs offer 16:9 as a capture option that has to be manually set.

Which aspect ratio is the best?

This depends on multiple factors. One can think of cropping or resizing the files, but the end result might not be desirable. That said, while selecting a particular aspect ratio for any image one must consider the following metrics:

  • Will the image be uploaded on social media platforms?
  • Is there a need to create multiple versions of the same visual to optimize it for different platforms?
  • Will it be printed as a hard copy or be used for online advertising?
  • Will there be any logos or texts?
  • Can changing the ratio adversely affect the image?

Think about the primary usage of your visuals and accordingly identify the best aspect ratio that serves your purpose. This will take time, especially for beginners, but once you gain an in-depth knowledge, selecting the appropriate image dimension will be easy.

Final words

Hope you have enjoyed the blog. By now, we believe you have a fair understanding of the concept of aspect ratio and how it matters for your photography and post-processing. With the advent of modern digital cameras, the concept became more of a personal aesthetic choice. It is much more evident in the aspect ratio for wedding photos, usually set at 3:2 or 4:3, which captures all the event details.

However, knowing the potential ratios your DSLRs have will still help you better adjust your images if you intend to print them? Professional photo editing teams devote sufficient attention to all aspects of photography. That’s the reason they can produce such flawless images.

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we shall discuss another interesting topic!

Christa Elrod linkedinDribbbleBehance

Christa Elrod serves as a senior graphic designer at ProGlobalBusinessSolutions. She is a creative designer with robust skills in typography, UI/UX designs, printing designs, video post-production, and 3D designs. Possessing years of experience across diverse industries, Christa loves to educate fellow designers with her experience and domain knowledge.