Have you noticed that we are in such a messy world when it comes to the aspect ratio, which is the photo’s width divided by its height? Common aspect ratios in still photography include 4:3 used by most point-and-shoot digital cameras and 3:2 used by 35mm film, APS-C (“classic” mode) and most DSLRs, although there are a class of four-third DSLR cameras (most notably Olympus DSLR cameras) that also use the 4:3 aspect ratio.

If you want to print the photos on traditional paper media, you are faced with the choices of 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14, 16×20, 20×30, etc. If you want to print a border-less photo from Nikon cameras (3:2), they only fit on the 4×6 or 20×30 without the lab automatically cropping some part of the photos off or leaving white space on two sides! Otherwise you have to crop the photo before sending it to the printer.

Practically the aspect ratio isn’t too much of a problem if you just want to embed the photos in a web-page, or display them in online photo albums, or share them using emails. There is only a slight problem if you want to run a slide-show full screen since you cannot fit the photos entirely on the screen without cropped, or letterboxed unless the photos have the same aspect ratio and orientation as the screen.

Currently 16:9 is becoming the most popular aspect ratio for laptop computer screens, LCD monitors, and high definition TVs. You can obviously shoot and crop you photos in such a way that they all have the 16:9 aspect ratio and in landscape orientation. It may pose some challenges in composition but shouldn’t be impossible, especially for landscape photography. One example photo cropped to 16:9 aspect ratio is shown on top of this post.

If you are creating video slide-shows, you can use the Ken Burns Effect (Pan and Zoom) so the photo will take up the entire screen area without leaving ugly black borders during the entire duration of the show. On computers, some photo viewers have this effect built-in in their slide-show function. One such example is the Google Picasa.

Posted in: Digital photography, Tips and Techniques on February 8th, 2009. Trackback URI
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