Why include aspect ratios into a series on composition? Choosing the frame size or aspect ratio can have a huge impact on your photograph and its composition. It has the power to emphasize your subject if one size is chosen over another. It can also create problems if you have a desired image size and the image was shot too tightly at another aspect ratio.
Basically aspect ratio refers to the height and width of your photograph. It could be square (1:1), or like most television screens (16:9). 35mm (full frame), crop sensors, or your modern DSLR’s use a 3:2 aspect ratio while the 4/3rds camera format, old tube television sets and many compact digital cameras use the squarer format of 4:3.
If you want to or need to change your aspect ratio you have to crop. There are two schools of thought on cropping, don’t do it or to use it as a compositional tool. I prefer to use it as a compositional tool although I’ll admit I fail to use it as much as I probably should.
What’s the madness behind all of this you might ask? Well if shooting with 35mm (3:2) and the print sizes are 5x7, 8x10, 11x14 and 16x20 your captures will all have to be cropped. If you don’t want to or can’t crop you’re stuck with relatively the unpopular sizes of 8x12, 10x15, 12x18, 16x24, and so on.
Many cameras now offer in camera cropping. Personally I prefer to crop after the capture, not before. Leaving all the options open for further post processing to me is very desirable. Some might argue it makes it easier to visualize the final capture by cropping in camera first rather than later.
One thing to keep in mind is to shoot a little loose, leave some real estate available for cropping in post processing later. Why throw away parts of your image during the capture when it’s so easy to decide later what to crop out?
Choose your subject and then choose your aspect ratio, not the other way around. Build your image by first capturing it then later find an aspect ratio that matches it for the best composition.
1:1 Aspect Ratio
2:3 Aspect Ratio
1:1 Aspect Ratio
3:2 Aspect Ratio
4:3 Aspect Ratio
I hope you enjoyed this article on aspect ratios and will find it useful in your photography.
Stay tuned for my next installment on Space, Negative and Positive.