Cropping for Print

Cropping Your Images for Print

Recently a friend of mine reminded me of print images and cropping images to fit in the frames available for purchase. And that kind of made me think about photographing and cropping for print–that is, with a printed image in mind as a final product.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t often print. I do have a printer (Epson), and I do print–not on a regular basis these days (although I’m aware that it’s a good idea), but rather whenever I have a show or have images in a show or one of my family members, friends or clients need printed images.

But this post is not about that. This post is about photographing so that we can print the images without having to crop too much.

Nowadays, with many of us creating content mostly for online use [or for print publications (for example) that can easily adjust the size and print the image to best fit a particular need], we don’t often have to think about the actual image printing process…that is until we have to print an image, or a few.

Then what? Then, we discover that the images that look great online might not really look that awesome in print. Or that we need to resize (read: crop) those images in order to fit the available image frame sizes: 4-by-6, 5-by-7, 8-by-10, and so on. But that’s not that easy, because the camera sensor ratio (which determines the RAW digital image size and/or size ratio) is not the same as the pre-cut frame ratio. Even for full-frame DSLRs (35mm film equivalent), the sensor ratio is 2:3 will determine a ready-to-print, uncropped images that would fit a 4-by-6 frame (also with a 2:3 ratio) but what about the other frame sizes?

(first, a bit of math)

– 4-by-6 frame size ratio is 2:3

– 5-by-7 frame size ratio is 5:7

– 8-by-10 frame size ratio is 4:5

And so on….

V is for Velvet. Lensbaby Velvet Photography by Alina Oswald.
Angle. Lensbaby Velvet Photography by Alina Oswald.

So, what to do?

There are several options, especially if you end up printing your own images:

  • don’t print the image as captures, directly from the camera (for more reasons than just how it would look in print)
  • rather, compose the image in camera so that, even when cropped in post (production), it would look good in print
  • also in post (aka Photoshop), test out how the image would look in print, using different paper sizes, and choose the right size; crop or try to resize the image if the paper size is already determined, let’s say, by the client
  • when you print out the full image and end up with a border around that image, in order to frame it you’ll need to cut a custom mat to fit the image and the pre-cut frame; as I used to have to cut mats much more often for clients and/or artwork for various shows, I bought a mat cutter years ago; as with the paper cutter (that I bought for pretty much the same reason), a mat cutter is a good investment, and both last a lifetime; one note: mat cutting is not as easy as it might seem, it requires lots of practice and patience! You can find pre-cut mats, uncut mat boards, and similar other items at an art supply store near you, or you can order online.

One last note: you can photograph just because you can photograph for a cause or with a final product in mind. Even in today’s digital age, every once in a while, that final product is an actual print photograph. When pressing that shutter button, try to see, with your mind’s eyes, how that photograph that you’re about to capture would look in print–size, color or black-and-white, type of paper, mat, frame, and so on.

Just something to think about.

As always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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