You’ve decided that you want to have a photo printed, but you aren’t sure what size yet. In fact, you don’t really even know what sizes are possible. Does your photo make a 16×20 or a 16×24? What if you want to hang a photo on your wall in a space that measures 22×31″, can you do that? Where do you go from there?

This is a scenario we face every day, and though it can be confusing at first, it’s pretty easy to handle once you understand what’s going on. Essentially there are two things at play when it comes to knowing what to do with your photo: size and aspect ratio.

Size can be easily expressed as “how big is it”?

Aspect ratio, sometimes called proportion, can be more understandably expressed as “what shape is it”?

To illustrate this idea, imagine that someone brings you a square. They may ask you to make it small (2″x2″), or they may ask you to make it large (10″x10″). In this scenario the size changes, but the shape stays the same, so it’s pretty easy to just make the square bigger or smaller and it will look exactly like the original square:

photo sizes vs aspect ratios

Now, what if this person brings you a square and asks for a triangle? It doesn’t take long to see that something has to give. No matter what size triangle they ask for something has to be cropped away from the square to make it a triangle. This is the case with aspect ratio. If your photo is shaped one way and you ask for a size that is shaped differently then something has to be cropped:

photo aspect ratios

So, how does this apply to your photos? If you bring me a rectangle and ask for a square then I must crop your rectangle. Most DSLRs, which basically means cameras on which you can change the lenses, produce photos that are all the same shape, even if they are different sizes. To get technical, they produce a rectangle in a 3:2 aspect ratio. Another way to say that is to say the long side is 1.5X longer than the short side. Yet another way to say that is that you can make the following sizes and maintain the original photo shape: 8×12, 11×16.5, 12×18, 16×24, 20×30, 30×45, 40×60.

But what if you want to make a 16×20 instead of a 16×24? We can do that, it simply means that your original photo must be cropped. Since the original shape would produce a 16×24, and you want a 16×20, then we have to cut away 4 inches off of the long side. The same idea applies to other sizes. Say you want an 8×10, but your camera naturally makes an 8×12. In this case, two inches have to go off the long side.

There is certainly some variation in this. For example, most phones and compact “point and shoot” cameras produce photos that are shaped differently than DSLRs, so those must be taken largely on a case by case basis.

Since we are custom printers we have almost no size limitations. You don’t have to want a standard size when you come to us, you can have just about whatever you like or whatever size best fits the space you would like to hang your photo, and we are always happy to have a look at your photos and let you know what sizes they can make or what we need to do to make the size you’re wanting.

As always, if you are unsure about the sizes that your photo can make you can always get in touch with us and we’ll tell you everything you need to know about it.