Why do my pictures get cropped?

Understanding Aspect Ratio

Sometimes when we make prints of our images, depending on the size of the print, the image gets cropped. Why does this happen? Typically, it happens when the shape of the original image doesn’t match with the shape of the print.

To prevent these issues, we need to understand a few things about composition and what’s called aspect ratio.

Composition is the placement of items in your image: your subject, foreground, midground, and background objects, and how they affect your image.

Aspect ratios have to do with the size of your image, in regards to length and width.

Printed images have mostly been rectangular over the years, so sometimes it can be hard to understand how different sizes create different effects on our images. The standard aspect ratio setting on most cameras is 3:2, although if you aren’t sure what aspect ratio your camera uses, there are settings to change it in the menu of most cameras. The 3:2 ratio creates images that print uncropped 4×6 prints, the most standard print size. If you take a 3:2 image and print it on a 5×7 or 8×10 there will be cropping. 5x7s are a longer 7:5 ratio, while 8x10s use a less rectangular 5:4 ratio. Why, do you ask, are these print sizes standard when our cameras do not default to these sizes? It all goes back to film and negative sizes. Print size used to be determined by the size of the negative.

Let’s put this into perspective for you:

If you look at some of these sample images, you can see how different aspect ratios will affect cropping. These images are all 3:2, so they can be printed at 4×6 without cropping. The blue lines indicate cropping for an 8×10, and the red for a 5×7. As you can see, how you frame an image affects how it can be cropped later.


sample 1 sample 3 sample2

Have you ever taken a group shot and had to cut out Uncle Larry from the picture? When you frame an image, whether you are zooming or not, it is important to remember that you can crop in on the picture later, but if you get too close when you take the photo, you can’t add more to the picture later. This is why it is better to crop on the computer, rather than in camera. Another option would be to shoot wider, to not zoom in so much on your subject, and to give your subject ample distance from the edges of the frame to avoid cropping out peoples.

Bad Crop





Using these tips can help you create excellent images without creating frustration when it is time to print your pictures. If you need further assistance with this when making your prints, feel free to stop by any Creve Coeur Camera location and we’d be happy to help you!

-Ian Blaylock, Crestwood Store