Why Prints Don’t Look like Their Digital Originals is due to Aspect Ratio. Have you heard of it? If you are a photographer I should hope so, but if you are not then I would expect you not to know what this is.  Aspect Ratio is why your printed images look nothing like their digital originals. I want to explain aspect ratio in simple terms that any one, photographer or not can understand.

 Wikipedia describes aspect ratio as:

The aspect ratio of an image describes the proportional relationship between its width and its height. It is commonly expressed as two numbers separated by a colon, as in 16:9. For an x:y aspect ratio, no matter how big or small the image is, if the width is divided into x units of equal length and the height is measured using this same length unit, the height will be measured to be y units.

Yeah, I am confused just by that definition. Me & math don’t get along very well and to explain it proper is to use math, but in simple terms an image can not be printed in any size without losing parts of the image.  Let me explain in pictures as they speak louder then words.


Why Prints Don’t Look like Their Digital Originals

Below is a photo straight out of the camera, no cropping at all. The size is 16.4 x 10.8 inches. Now let’s see what kind of size prints we can get out of this photo, ready…let’s go.

Why Prints Don't Look like Their Digital Originals


Let’s try to make this exact photo an 8 x 10 with no cropping or respect for aspect ratio.

Why Prints Don't Look like Their Digital Originals

The cute brothers look rather squished. That is not good. So the only way to get the original print to a 8 x 10 is by cropping according to aspect ratio.


Why Prints Don't Look like Their Digital Originals

In order to get the 8 x 10 sizing, we lost some of the image from the sides. We lost none on the height though, that is good. these boys would not look so cute without their heads. This is a landscape image, let’s put this image as an 8 x 10 portrait. You ready…

Why Prints Don't Look like Their Digital Originals

Going portrait we lost the whole background and a bit off the little ones arm. So make sure to talk with your photographer before hand to determine whether you need landscape or portrait or ask if they can take one of each.

Now when a photographer gives digital files, they usually do not give the original straight out of camera size, most will size all files to one set size. 8 x 10 is a standard size. So let’s take our landscape 8 x 10 and see what other sizes we can get out of it.

Why Prints Don't Look like Their Digital Originals

The above is a 5 x 7 cropped out of an 8 x 10. What is inside the red line is what a 5 x 7 would look like, you can see what is on the outside that will be lost.

Next up is a 4 x 6 out of the 8 x 10 and again what is inside the red is what a 4 x 6 would look like, the outside would be lost.

Why Prints Don't Look like Their Digital Originals

So you decide you want to go larger then 8 x 10 and you think what could go wrong.  Lot’s of things, the first is most photographers have sized the digital file for that particular size, going larger could cause blurriness &/or more loss of an image.  I took the original 8 x 10 and sized it to print at 11 x 14, then zoomed into 100% and cut the face off the boy to show you what it would look like:

Why Prints dont look like their digital originals

Look at his eyes, see how blurry they look. On the original straight out of camera they are not blurry but sharp. But by taking that 8 x 10 and blowing it up … you made your image blurry. So please oh please talk to your photographer if you want to go larger in print size.  You are hurting that photographers work & brand by printing blurry images.


Now the last thing, and this makes me mad, please keep your mobile device at home away from your digital files. Mobile devices are not a storage device.  If your photographer gives you digital files and you want prints, please use a USB stick, a CD or DVD or straight pc upload to the lab of your choice.  DO NOT PUT YOUR IMAGES ON YOUR MOBILE DEVICE WITH THE HOPES TO PRINT FROM THERE.  I will slap you.  Putting a digital file onto a mobile device compresses the file, making it smaller and then you will be lucky to get a 4 x 6 print out of it.

So before you sign on the bottom line for a photography session, talk with the photographer on what size prints you are wanting or interested in, and whether you want landscape or portrait layout. This will allow your prints to be amazing. To take it one step further, let your photographer get the prints for you. You run the risk of oh so many issues if you take your files to a local print lab.  Some things that could go wrong at a local print lab are:

  • excess cropping
  • automatic color correcting
  • wrong size chosen and blurriness occurs

I have experienced these at local labs, so let your photographer get your prints, they use professional labs so colors and aspect ratio are correct each & every time!

Prints last a life time & beyond, make sure they are a perfect representation of you & of the photographer you paid good money to.

If you even have questions on this, please ask. I am here to help you.  


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