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It is extremely important to understand photograph print sizes when ordering prints. This is because different print sizes do not have the same proportions and are not simply larger (or smaller) versions of the same image.
Most professional DSLRs used for portraits record images in a ratio of 2:3. The means that the long side of the image is 1.5x as long as the short side. There isn’t a coincidence as to why 4″x6″ prints are so popular – they are the same proportion as the image natively captured by the camera. Unfortunately, “enlargements” of that same print are not simply larger versions of it. Common prints sizes like 5×7 and 8×10 prints have different proportions and will show more or less of the same image.
To calculate the print proportions, simple divide the long side by the short side. For example:
- 4″x6″ Prints – 6/4 = 1.5
- 5″x5″ Prints – 5/5 = 1
- 5″x7″ Prints – 7/5 = 1.4
- 8″x10″ Prints – 10/8 = 1.25
- 11″x14″ Prints – 14/10 = 1.27
- 10″x20″ Prints – 20/10 = 2
- 16″x20″ Prints – 20/16 = 1.25
- 16″x24″ Prints – 24/16 = 1.5
- 20″x24″ Prints – 24/20 = 1.2
- 20″x30″ Prints – 30/20 = 1.5
If two different print sizes have the same proportion, they should show the same amount of the image. Using the examples above, you can quickly see that 4″x6″, 16″x24″ and 20″x30″ prints are the same proportion as well as 8″x10″ and 16″20″ prints. So, it goes to reason that a 16″x20″ print is a true enlargement of an 8″x10″ print, an 11″x14″ print is not.
The image of the girl sitting below is perfect example of why understanding photograph print sizes is so important. The original 5″x7″ print is a great composition and is typical of what you might see on a full page image in a magazine. However, watch what happens to the viewable image when it is compared to other common print sizes including 4×6, 5×5, 8×10 and 11×14 prints.
Not much of the original 5×7 image is lost when going to a 4×6, just a little along both long sides. However, a lot of the image (most of her lower body) is lost when going to a 5×5 or 8×10. Please keep this in mind when you order prints! What looks great as a 4×6 or 5×7, might look horrible as an 8×10 depending on composition of the image!
To frame or not to frame? That is the question! If you will be placing a print in a frame, please be sure you select an image that has additional “space” around your subject to allow for the frame and mat to cover up the edges of the print. If you will be using the print for scrapbooking, on a greeting card or mounting it to a substrate for another purpose, this is not as important since you will likely want the subject to take up as much of the print as possible.
The next example is extremely important if you are interested in ordering wallet size prints. Wallets are usually 2.5″x3.5″. Using our formula from above, you can see that wallets are the same as 5×7 prints (2.5/3.5 = 5/7 = 1.4). However, unlike individual prints, eight (8) wallets are typically printed together on one sheet the size of an 8×10 print and and then fed through a die cut machine to perforate the edges and turn them into individual wallets. This die cut process requires there be some “bleed” around all four edges of the image so it can be cut out.
You can easily see that the die cut process will crop additional portions of the image on all four sides. The precise position of the cut cannot be controlled by and typically occurs within the gray band in the example shown above. Because of this, if you do not want your subject’s head to be cropped, it is important that you select an image that has sufficient “space” on all four sides. But, as you can see in the above example, if it was cropped in a way that showed her full head in the wallet, her elbow would appear to be floating since you would not be able to see her knee nor leg. Even so, this is purely personal preference.
Hopefully you can see how important it is to determine how you will use your prints when reviewing images before placing an order. We want to ensure you are happy with your print and wallet order. So, if you have any questions or concerns about different photograph print sizes and how your proofs will look in different size formats, please feel free to contact us and request a mocked up example of what your final print might look like.