Photo sizes! They’re hardly the most riveting topic, but understanding which standard photo sizes you have to choose from will come in handy when you next want to print an image. Getting to grips with frame sizes, aspect ratio and what all these measurements mean can save you a lot of headache down the line.
It’s not the first thing most newbie photographers think of, but understanding how to print your work is a hallmark of someone who takes their photography seriously.
This page is designed to demystify the process of printing photos. We’ll run through the standard photo sizes, the ratios they’re associated with and how to choose the right print sizes for you.
Standard Photo Sizes & Aspect Ratio Explained
When it comes to standard photo sizes, it’s much easier for most people to understand measurements like 6×4″ or 8×8″ when visualizing how a print might look in their home. An area where people tend to get confused is aspect ratio.
So what is aspect ratio and why does it matter? Put simply, the aspect ratio of a photo print is a comparison of its width to its height. For example, if a print has an aspect ratio of 3:2, that means its width is 1.5x more than its height.
Aspect Ratio – Who Cares?
When working with your photos, it’s important to understand the relationship between aspect ratios and photo sizes. We know that long lists of numbers can be overwhelming, but once you know the basics it’s actually deceptively simple. Understanding aspect ratios is important for two main reasons.
1. Image Cropping
One reason it’s worth getting to grips with both image size and aspect ratio is it will make it much easier to know how your chosen size will crop your image. Some aspect ratios result in a square image, while others lead to a wider, more rectangular end result.
If you don’t understand the aspect ratio you’ve chosen, you risk cropping out elements of your image that you didn’t intend to.
Take this image for example. The square aspect ratio of this photo means that a print aspect ratio of 3:2 wouldn’t be appropriate.
As you can see in this cropped image, 3:2 means we lose elements of the subject. Understanding this fact of photography will go a long way when you come to printing your images. There’s no point getting a perfect image if you’re going to undermine your work when you print.
2. Aspect Ratios and Distortion
Choosing the wrong ratio when printing can result in a distorted, odd-looking end result. Photograph sizes are only half the battle; using the right ratio is just as important.
A good example would be when printing a landscape photograph using a square ratio. This would result in a ‘squashed’, distorted print that simply wouldn’t work for display purposes.
A fringe benefit of understanding these ratios can be found when displaying images on a screen. Understanding the relationship between the width and height of a photo will make it easier to make decisions about which screen settings and resolutions to use.
Common Ratios and Standard Photo Sizes
Below are some common aspect ratios and related photo sizes. Learning these figures together will help your photography game long term.
1:1 (8×8″) – A Perfect Square
A 1:1 photo has the same width and height, resulting in a perfect square. Some common photo sizes at 1:1 include 8×8 inches or a 1080×1080 image. 1:1 shots work well for the square format of social media sites like Instagram.
3:2 (6×4″) – Common for Home Prints
3:2 is a very common standard photo format that first started in the age of film photography. 6×4 inches is a common image size with this aspect ratio.
4:3 (8×6″) – Rectangular
Photograph sizes in 4:3 include 8×6 inches or 1024×768 pixels. Think standard TV dimensions and rectangular photo prints. This is a great option for landscape and some wildlife photography.
16:9 – PC Screens
This ratio may sound familiar if you’ve ever tinkered with PC building. It’s the common ratio used by most modern computer monitors and is a wider, rectangular format. This is a great choice for smaller landscape panoramas. You may need to source a custom build if you’re looking to frame your image.
5:4 (10×8″) – Almost Square
5:4 is a nearly square aspect ratio that’s also great for Instagram and other social media shots. 10×8″ is one of the common photo print sizes that has a 5:4 aspect ratio.
Photo Print Sizes – Standard Photo Size List
This section will run through the most common sizes for prints and what they’re commonly used for.
4×6″ – The Standard
The most common size for home photo prints is probably 4×6″. It’s the format that most people are already familiar with. Most digital cameras already take great shots for this size.
8×10″ – A Step Up
This is a slightly larger size for images with bigger subjects. Think group photos or family portraits. Many photography studios prefer 8×10 for their prints.
16×10″ – Smaller Poster
With 16×10, we’re approaching poster territory. Consider this size for bold prints and photos of special occasions. The rectangular aspect ratio makes this size great for decorating a bedroom.
20×30″ – Poster
This is a common choice for a more standard poster size. If you have a statement piece that you want to show off, this is probably the size to go for.
How to Choose the Right Size for You
Hopefully the sections above have demystified some elements of photo printing and its most standard sizes. The question remains, how do you know which size you should print in? This section will outline our process for picking a size that works for you.
Consider the Purpose
What are you printing the image for? Are you decorating your house with your work? Perhaps you’re sending the images to a loved one or printing out memories to keep for later. Your reason for printing will determine the size you choose.
As a general rule, smaller prints are usually best for sending via mail or pinning up near a desk. For bigger display purposes though, you may want to consider one of the larger poster sizes we discussed above.
The standard photo size you choose for your photo print will also be influenced by the original image’s composition. If you originally shot in a square ratio, it’s probably best to avoid print sizes that are better suited to landscape images.
If your photo is a stunning landscape shot, smaller print sizes might not do the image justice. Consider the image you’ve taken and find a print size that works for you.
Measure the Space you Have
If you’re printing to decorate your home, it’s worth taking stock of your available room. While larger photo sizes can be tempting, they just won’t work if you don’t have the room. Spend the time getting to grips with the space you have available before deciding on image or frame sizes.
One of the greatest joys of photography is seeing your work physically in front of you. If you want to make sure you’re on top of you’re game, it’s worth taking the time to understand photo print sizes and their related aspect ratios.
While it’s far from the most exciting topic, it’s important if you want to take your photography seriously. Displaying your work for others means getting your head wrapped around the basics.