Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Aspect Ratio

Moonrise in North Beach

Every image has an aspect ratio which can profoundly affect how a picture is viewed. Aspect ratio is the length of the sides in relation to each other. Common aspect ratios that have been around for years are 4:3 and 3:2 where the length is one quarter longer than the width on the former and one third longer than the width on the latter.

Great Falls on the Potomac above Washington, DC

Notice how cropping this photo meant losing information
that didn't have any real effect on the rest of the image.

Personally, I have never thought very highly of either one. To me, it is like watching a bad actor. You are always aware that they are acting because they are incapable of acting naturally. It is the same way with these two closely related aspect ratios. It is as though you are (consciously) looking at a photograph through a window.

Big sky country, Calvert County

That is slowly starting to change, however. If you notice, both TV and computer screens (and movie screens, come to think of it) have aspect ratios with much longer, more panoramic formats. It is starting to filter down into frames for still images. I think that more closely approximates how we naturally see. At least I feel more comfortable looking at a photo in this type of format (16:9) where it seems natural to not be able to take in the entire photo, but your eyes scan back and forth horizontally just as they do when you look at the world around you.

The Patuxent River in Fall

It took me a long time to put my finger on what it was that bugged me about the first two aspect ratios I mentioned. Once I realized what was so annoying, I began cropping almost everything I photograph in a 16:9 ratio. Since the camera is designed to produce a photograph in the older format, I have to keep in mind when I am taking the picture that almost one fourth of the width is going to be cropped out. The 16:9 aspect ratio comes into its own in landscape photography where the length emphasizes the horizontal.

Local horse farm

If this format looks more natural to you, maybe you were having the same problem and didn't know it.

Early Fall on the river

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