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one size fits all?

Print sizes can be a little confusing.  The standard sizes represent the ratio of width to height of a picture (typically measured in inches).  Pictures are either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) when it comes to these ratios. 
It might be easy to visualize the difference between a 4×6, 5×7, and 8×10 print, but did you realize these are not equivalent?  A 4×6 picture printed as 5×7 print looks different.  In fact, you might think the picture was blown up a little bit.   You lose parts of your picture when you start changing the ratios.  Each photographer decides when they save their pictures, what size to save.  I’m not talking about quality, as in resolution.  I’m talking about the actual picture size ratio.  I use to save all my pictures with the 5×7 ratio.  I started encountering more and more issues when printing 8×10’s, so I’ve changed my process to keep the standard size from my camera, which is closer to a 4×6 ratio. 
After trying to help my customers understand these differences, I decided to come with some examples.  Below I’ve shown the relationship between the most common print sizes (4×6 (gray), 5×7 (blue) & 8×10 (green)) and their equivalent enlargement print sizes (8×12, 10×14, 16×20).  As you can see, the only common enlargement in this bunch is 16×20.   Most people don’t print 8×12, they choose the 8×10.   Most people don’t print the 10×14, they chose the 11×14 (not even on this chart).  Why? Well, basically because the 8×10 & 11×14 are the common frame sizes on the store shelves.  Someone, somewhere made these retail choices for us and now we have to deal with the shortcomings.

I did show one other size below, the 2.5×3.5 ratio.  It’s not exactly a standard size for the wallet prints, but at least you can see the relationship better between a 5×7 and a wallet.  I could have shown the 2×3 (a mini 4×6) but my picture was getting a little cluttered at this point! 🙂

 So how does this interpolate to an actual picture?  Below you can see a picture  I took a few years ago of my daughter and my niece.  At the 5×7 size there will be a lot of foliage in the print.  If I wanted to make this a 4×6 print, I would lose a lot of the foliage, but I would have a sweet close up of the girls hugging.  Now, the 4×5 usually isn’t a size on my radar but keep in mind it’s enlargement is the highly popular 8×10.

This is what happens when you start resizing a picture.  Notice how the 5×7 looks as a 8×10 (or 4×5 enlargement).  Whoa, there’s now about an inch of white on the print page.  Trust me, it does not look good when you actually print it this way.  You’re customer will wonder why there is white space left on the print page. 

Thanks to Photoshop and other editing tools, we do have some fairly effective ways to fix the problem.  But, most likely you will lose some of the trees.  Now, it really wouldn’t matter in this particular picture, but what if your picture was of a group?  Now, you might have lost someone’s head or arms by resizing it to a different ratio.  In this case, I would limit the sizes available for printing the picture.

As you can see, this is one of the many dilemma’s that can be encountered when printing pictures.  Resizing pictures for printing can add some time into an ordering process.  I do offer a lot of print sizes to my customers (even ones not shown on the chart above), but I let them know there might be some slight changes/fixes required.  Hope this helps explain why there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to printing pictures. 🙂


Copyright 2012 © by Nicole Pawlaczyk. All rights reserved.

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