These different aspect ratios make for creative flexibility in how you frame and capture the composition. Designing for a CD cover, for example, may start you off shooting in the 1:1 (or 6:6) square format, a landscape photographer may opt for the panoramic 16:9 aspect as opposed to the over-square 7:6 aspect.
Photo School: Aspect Ratios The default aspect ratio on most digital SLR cameras is 3:2, which is the aspect ratio of the imaging sensor regardless if the sensor is full-frame, APS-C or APS-H. This is a carryover from analog (film) photography where the film frame is also in 3:2 ratio, which measures 24x36mm.
The 4:3 film frame on medium-frame cameras measures 60x45mm. Other models of medium format cameras shoot images in the 1:1 (or 6:6) aspect, while a few shoots in 7:6 aspect ratio. The image aspects are also made available as a selection option in the Image Aspect function of the digital camera.
Let's have a look now at the most common image aspect options that are available on your camera. These images show the composition and proportional sizes captured as we change the image aspect setting on the camera, as well as shots at the same image aspect but with the camera held vertically instead of the normal horizontal position.
The aspects looked at are 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, and 1:1, shot hypothetically on a digital camera with a 3:2 image aspect sensor.
3:2 and 2:3 Image Aspect
|Image at 3:2 Aspect Ratio|
|Image at 2:3 Aspect Ratio|
This is the image aspect of 35mm film first introduced by Oskar Barnack for Leica cameras early in the 20th century. This aspect is also used in 4”x 6” prints, a common size for many photo albums.
When shot with the camera held in vertical framing mode, the image aspect is 2:3. The dimensions of the image remain the same measured vertically.
4:3 and 3:4 Image Aspect
|Image at 4:3 Aspect Ratio|
|Image at 3:4 Aspect Ratio|
When compared to the 3:2 image aspect, the 4:3 aspect is slightly shorter, and is sometimes favored by landscape photographers who might find that the 3:2 frame is a bit too long to fill effectively. Another reason for this favor is the size of the 645 negative film which, at 60x45mm this size is way bigger than the standard 24x36mm film frame of 35mm cameras.
Turned on its side, the 4:3 image aspect becomes 3:4, an uncommon aspect not normally listed os one of the image aspect options on digital cameras. Pardon the discourse, but the 3:4 image aspect is one of my favorites because this is the image aspect of half-frame 35mm film camera images which is a part of my permanent collection.
16:9 and 9:16 Image Aspect
|Image at 16:9 Aspect Ratio|
|Image at 9:16 Aspect Ratio|
As a product of movie producers the 16:9 aspect ratio allows users to view a bigger picture close enough to that of a cinema, with enhanced quality with stronger backdrops and scenery.
In still photography, this image aspect makes a great format for wide sweeping vista and panoramic shots in still photography. This panoramic format is also used by some medium format panoramic film cameras, and several early Panasonic compact cameras.
Turned on its side the image is now in 9:16 image aspect, which might be worth a challenge to work with. You can always have a go at if you have an ultra-wide angle lens and you are located on a high perch.
1:1 (or 6:6) Image Aspect
|Image at 1:1 Aspect Ratio|
JPEG or RAW Images?
On most cameras, JPEG images are processed and recorded using the aspect ratio selected when the image was taken, displayed at cropped dimensions during playback or when exported. RAW images, on the other hand, are not cropped. They are captured at the full size of the sensor with the aspect ratio information recorded as part of the digital file data.
When reviewed in playback mode, or uploaded for post-processing, the uncropped image data is shown overlaid by a template, or frame, based on the selected aspect ratio. The aspect ratio information can be used to crop the images in-camera (in Edit mode) and exported as cropped JPEG images.
Tips for Composing with Different-Format Cameras
Aspect ratios and compositional theory