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What is an Aspect Ratio and Why is it Important?

By Justin Heyes on December 30th 2017

An aspect ratio defines the relationship between an image’s width to its height, and the standard motion picture aspect ratio can be traced back to one man: William Kennedy Dickson.

As a staff photographer for Thomas Edison, William Dickson was tasked with utilizing the newly mass-produced flexible film stock that Eastman Kodak was pushing out with Edison’s own kinetoscope. With this 35mm wide film, Dickson settled on an image that was 4 perforations high, creating the soon to be industry standard of 4:3. The 4:3 aspect ratio has since been influencing everything photo related from televisions in the 1950s, 4K UHD, and even digital cameras.

[REWIND: What Is JPEG? JPEG Definition & All You Need To Know About It]

The aspect ratio for still photography will have an impact on your final printed image. If you’re looking to print images at 5×7, 8×10 or 12×16, the 4:3 aspect ratio will be ideal. However, if you are looking at printing 4×6, 12×18, or 20×30 then you want to be shooting at an aspect ratio of 3:2. Even further still is the 4:5 ratio which will print images natively at 8×10, 16×20 and 24×30.

Many digital cameras allow the user to select multiple image aspect ratios in-camera, but of course this is something that can be done in post – provided your composition allows, and then there are some who achieve this through the use of multi-aspect sensors. With all the ratios and print sizes available it can become confusing, which is why we’re featuring Tony Northrup in his recently produced a video that is a neatly put-together introduction to aspect ratios. Is it exciting? No. But worth the time.

About

Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

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