The Importance of Aspect Ratio & Why You Should Care

September 25, 2016  •  3 Comments

The Importance of Aspect Ratio & Why You Should Care by Tim LaytonThe Importance of Aspect Ratio & Why You Should Care by Tim Layton I believe that selecting the proper aspect ratio for your scene or subject, especially in nature and landscape photography can make or break your print/image.

I work with large format view cameras and I am primarily a contact printer so I don't have the luxury of cropping or changing my mind later.  

Some people view this as a huge disadvantage, but I see it as a blessing.  It also feels fantastic and very special when I am able to fully express my creative vision in a way that resonates with my viewers.

In this article, I share how dramatic and important the aspect ratio is for your image. 

I created two polls yesterday and asked my social media network to cast their votes.  In the first poll, I presented two panoramic images labeled A and B (see the image to the top left of this article). I asked the voter to select their preferences and share why they liked it the best.  

I then presented my network with a second image that contained four aspect ratios labeled 1,2,3,4. These images are from the more common ratios that most people are familiar with.  

I received a tremendous response from people all over the world with varied backgrounds and knowledge of photography.  Many of the voters I know very well and some I have made friends with via social media.  In both cases, I was really surprised to learn about their preferences.  

You may be asking, why go to all this trouble?  I wanted to share how important aspect ratio is with my readers and how it can significantly impact your final prints/images.  I thought it would be too boring to talk about the concept in theory, so I quickly cropped my test image into the various formats that I use on a regular basis.  

The image to the left of this text is from the second poll. What I didn't ask my voters on social media was of the two different polls, which image do they like best overall?  I wanted to save that question for my blog readers.  So, of the 6 choices (A,B,1,2,3,4) which is your preference and why?  

Scroll down to the bottom of this article and click on the "Add comment" button and submit your final vote and tell me why you made your selection.  

THE IMPORTANCE OF ASPECT RATIO

I believe that selecting the proper aspect ratio for your scene or subject, especially in nature and landscape photography can make or break your print/image.  

I work with large format view cameras and I am primarily a contact printer so I don't have the luxury of cropping or changing my mind later.  Some people view this as a huge disadvantage, but I see it as a blessing.  It also feels fantastic and very special when I am able to fully express my creative vision in a way that resonates with my viewers.  

Free Analog Photography Journal by Tim LaytonFree Analog Photography Journal by Tim Layton I use digital gear on a regular basis for scouting purposes and a variety of non-creative reasons.  I am very familiar with the full digital workflow and have many years of experience with all the most common tools (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.).  I can clearly say that I feel a much stronger sense of accomplishment and pride when I nail my print then if I had simply cropped a digital image in Photoshop. This and among other personal reasons and biases is probably why I love making large format contact prints so much.  I want to be clear that I have no issues with digital photographers that crop their images in post-production, it just doesn't get my creative juices flowing.  

Even with this simple example that I have presented in this article, you can see how drastically the aspect ratio affects the viewing experience.  The most important point that I want my readers to take away from this article is that aspect ratio matters and that it helps to actively consider and think about it when you are creating your exposures.  

THE ASPECT RATIOS REVEALED

A lot of my readers are very technical and/or photographers, so I thought I better reveal the aspect ratios in the test images. The aspect ratios are as follows:  A (5x14 or 2.8), B (4x10 or 2.5), 1 (35mm or 1.5), 2 (8x10 or 1.25), 3 (5x7 or 1.4), 4 (11x14 or 1.27).  I selected these ratios because they are some of the most common sizes that I use with my large format view cameras.  I have 3 large format view cameras (4x5, 8x10, 11x14) and a variety of reducing backs (e.g, 5x7, 4x10, 6.5x8.5 (Whole Plate), 5x14).  

THE VOTES HAVE BEEN TALLIED

At the time of this article, the results were as follows:

Poll 1 - Panoramic Aspect Ratios

A - 38%

B - 62% 

Poll 2 - Common Aspect Ratios

1 - 60%

2 - 20%

3 - 10%

4 - 10%

How did the results match up to your votes?  What did you learn from this poll that you could use in your photography?  

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Comments

Tim Layton Fine Art
Hello Terry and Earl, thanks for commenting. It was an interesting project. Stay in touch.
Earl Dunbar(non-registered)
I only answered poll number one. I learned not to trust the overall response. Actually, I already knew that. :)
Terry Farnell(non-registered)
Interesting. I wonder if the voting would change if 1 to 4 were presented in portrait format - I like 35mm aspect ratio in landscape format, but not in portrait, where I'd prefer 8x10 aspect ratio.
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