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How to Choose the Right Aspect Ratio for Your Landscape Photography

Posted by Jacob Hawthorne on

When you are shooting a photo of a subject, finding the perfect aspect ratio is not too complicated. You decide how you want your subject centered, figure out what the background should include, and you’re good to go.

But when you shoot landscape photography, you have the freedom to capture anything you wish. While freedom is always nice, it may cause you to struggle to get the perfect composition. Understanding aspect ratio can help.

This article will review aspect ratio so you can get well framed shots every time.

What are Aspect Ratios?

Aspect ratios vary. Popular ones include 1:1, 3:2. 4:3, 5:4 16:9 and 2:1. Neither of these numbers refer to height or width specifically. So if your ratio is 3:2 it means that one side is one third larger than the other.

An 8x10 photo has a ratio of 4:5. This also applies to pictures that are 4x5”, 8x10” and 16x20”.

Aspect ratios also convert to pixels. The sensor size determines the number of pixels along each edge, but the proportion of pixels will follow the native ratio of your camera. So a 6000 x 4000 pixel image will be 3:2.

Aspect Ratio in Landscape Photography

Most cameras have a default aspect ratio of 3:2. However, you can easily switch the ratio. For example, on an iPhone, you can shoot in square for a 1:1 ratio and make other adjustments when shooting in landscape.

Many photographers try to visualize what aspect ratio will look best for their photos before they take a shot, but it is more common to crop to the desired ratio during editing. In fact, it’s always a good idea to leave some space for cropping.

Most software programs have a variety of ratios you can set the image to for cropping purposes. You can further skim from the top, bottom or sides to get an ideal shot.

How Do You Find the Best Aspect Ratio for Landscape Photography?

There really is no perfect ratio for landscape photography. The best ratio will vary according to what you are trying to shoot.

To figure out what will work, look at your subject. Then decide what foreground and background elements should be included.

For example, if the sky is not that interesting, but you have a lot going on to the bottom of your subject, a ratio of 16:9 may be ideal.

Here is a rundown of some aspect ratios you may consider using.

• 1:1: This square ratio is ideal when there is a clear center of interest. It also works well on Instagram.

• 4:5, 4:3, 3:2: These ratios are just slightly rectangular. They are used when both the area above and below or to the sides of the subject offers visual interest.

• 16:8, 2:1, 3:1: These ratios will provide panoramic views. They are great when you have a vertical object of interest.

Printing Aspect Ratios

If you are planning to print your pictures, it is best to get them to conform to the 4:5 ratio. This way, they will print well on standard 8x10 paper.

If you go outside that norm, you will need special paper and printer which can be a major expense. Alternately, you can trim the paper or leave a lot of white space around your image.

A well composed photo makes all the difference. Paying attention to aspect ratio will help you get it right every time. Which ratios do you find work best for you?


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