How do I know which print sizes to choose?

When ordering prints from a lab, you will typically have to choose from a number of standard sizes.  These are traditionally specified in inches.  Popular sizes are 6x4, 7x5, 9x6 and 10x8.  

So how do you know which size of print you need to order?  This will come down to two things:

1.  The proportions (or aspect ratio) of the original image.

2.  How big an enlargement do you actually want? 

Image aspect ratio is the expression of the relationship between width and height.  I will standardise on specifying it as width:height although you will find elsewhere it might be specified as height:width.  It is a ratio rather than the actual size e.g. 3:2, 6:4, 12:8 are all the same aspect ratio.  

The majority of your images are likely to be in the 3:2 ratio.  I will usually include the ratio in the image title so that is the place to check;  depending on how your gallery is setup, the ratio may well appear under the images.

Other ratios I tend to use are 1:1 (square), 5:4, 7:5, and 16:9.  Most of these have associated standard print sizes as illustrated in the table. 

This table is not exhaustive.  For some of the ratios (e.g. 1:1) there are many many more sizes commonly available.  

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If there isn't a direct match between the aspect ratio of your image and a common print size then you have three options.

1. Crop the image to fit a given print size.

2. Leave the image as it is but have white bands on the final print.

3. Ask me to do a new crop of the image that does fit common print sizes - and then ask me why I didn't do that in the first place!

In the table above the print sizes in red are not exact fits for the associated aspect ratios so you will have to consider cropping. As an example, look at the image below.  Here our original image had an aspect ratio of 16:9.  When  we try to print this as a standard 8"x4" or 12"x6" print then either the image will need to be recropped as in Figure 1.  Here the final print area is marked by the thin, white bounding box.  The areas of the image shaded in black will not print.

Alternatively you could choose to reduce the overall size of the image as in Figure 2.  Here the white stripes to the left and right will appear on the final print.  

Note that if you are buying prints via this website then both approaches are available to you as part of the buying process.  

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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