Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Photography Tip Tuesday - What the Crop!

What the Crop! - Understanding Aspect Ratios

4:3; 1:1; 1:1.5; 2:1; 3:1; 16:9 - What does all this mean????

In the past we lived in an 35mm film world.

The 35mm film frame was a 1:1.5 ratio. The exact size of the film frame was 36mmx24mm. This fits a 5x7 and 4x6 print size perfectly.

In the past our televisions were 4:3 ratio. All that has changed. Our lives are now 16:9 with widescreen televisions and computer screens, we are changing the way we look at images.

My portraits, for the most part, are still printed in standard aspect ratios. Landscapes are a different story. I prefer wider images for my landscape work. Although I will throw in a square crop every now then if it fits the scene.

Let's take a look at some examples.

This photograph of Cathedral Falls in Gauley Bridge, West Virginia, was photographed with the intention of being a 3:1 photograph. The waterfall is a tall waterfall and in order to give a feeling of its size I used a 3:1 aspect ratio. Another contributing factor to this is the fact that this is a panorama using 36 photographs to create the final photograph.

Here is Spaceship Earth at Walt Disney World's EPCOT Center. This is cropped in a square aspect ratio. The choice for this aspect ratio was based on the fact that not using a square crop would have left many elements that would likely detract from the subject of this photograph.

One final example. This was photographed the a few days ago. The Ohio River was icing over at its banks and due to the extreme cold, fog was rising off the river. I wanted to photograph a very low angle so I set my camera right on the ice. This created a blurry foreground that added nothing to the image. The ice is also very bright and draws your eye away from the center of the image.

I wanted to include as much of the rest scene as possible. When I settled on a final crop, I used a 2:1 aspect ratio.

Using aspect ratios like 1:1, 2:1 and 3:1 can still be printed on standard photographic paper by a reputable lab. Therefore having your images printed in these aspect ratios is not an issue. Framing them is a little more difficult. You can always buy a standard frame and have a custom mat cut if you don't want to have a custom frame size made.

Using different aspect ratios to crop your images allows you to remove distracting elements, bring attention to your subject, and infer scale to your subject. So next time you use your crop tool, try a different aspect ratio. The results may surprise you!


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