Photo Aspect Ratio: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners
How To
Jun 30

Photo Aspect Ratio: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

The concept of aspect ratio may seem puzzling to newcomers; however, the basics are quite simple. In this section, we will delve deep into this topic, covering all its relevant aspects and highlighting why it is vital to grasp.

What Does Aspect Ratio Refer to?

When examining a photo, the aspect ratio provides information about its width and height. It is expressed numerically, such as 3:2 or 4:3, with the first number indicating the width and the second representing the height. For example, if your camera sensor measures 36mm in width and 24mm in height, it would result in an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Additionally, aspect ratio refers to the dimensions of the JPEG or film used. This rectangular shape is measured in units, such as 4:3 or 3:2. For example, if an image has 4 units of width and 3 units of height, it would have a 4:3 aspect ratio. This applies to various units of measurement, such as meters or feet. For instance, a JPEG that is 3 meters wide and 2 meters high or 3 feet wide and 2 feet high would have a ratio of 3:2, respectively.

Why Does Your Picture Dimension Matter?

When it comes to capturing the perfect picture, understanding aspect ratio is crucial. It not only influences the composition of your shot but also determines the final size of the image. Let’s delve deeper into how aspect ratio impacts photography as a whole.

Technical Reasons

Grasping the different ratios of your photos is of utmost importance when it comes to sharing them online. When you post a profile picture, for example, it may appear differently on various devices, such as your phone versus a laptop. Understanding these aspects can help ensure that your photographs look their best, regardless of how or where your audience sees them.

For optimal display, social media sites and website creators often require adherence to specific dimensions. If you don’t follow these guidelines, images may appear stretched, cropped, or distorted.

Aesthetic Motivations

When adjusting the proportions of your image, it is crucial to consider how this alteration affects the appearance of the main subject in relation to the frame. Using an inappropriate ratio could lead to the subject being obscured by elements along the outer edges.

If your photo lacks visual appeal, you have the option to modify the aspect ratio. When used effectively, this adjustment can fill the frame more harmoniously, particularly in vertical shots. For example, if a 2:3 ratio feels too expansive, switching to a 4:5 ratio could result in a more impactful composition.

If you want your images to have a strong impact on different platforms, it is essential to be aware of the various proportion guidelines that are widely accepted. Understanding these rules will ensure that your visuals are displayed effectively for your viewers.


Originally, the 3:2 aspect ratio was commonly seen in 35mm film photography. Even today, this ratio is often used for prints, particularly for 4x6 inch pictures. Additionally, many digital cameras feature a full-frame setting that generates photos with a resolution of 1080 x 720 pixels, adhering to the 3:2 aspect ratio.

The 3:2 aspect ratio stands out as a favorite among photographers. Not only does it have a pleasing aesthetic appeal, but it also offers flexibility in post-production due to its capacity to be cropped if needed.


For quite some time, the 4:3 aspect ratio has played a significant role in the field of photography across various mediums. It has been utilized effectively in medium-format cameras, digital cameras, computer monitors, and TV displays.

Furthermore, micro four-thirds cameras also adopt the 4:3 aspect ratio while offering advanced features similar to those found in DSLRs, but in more portable packages. Keeping this ratio in mind, an 8x6 inch print can be easily produced, while an ideal display size would measure 1024x768 pixels.


The 1:1 aspect ratio, often referred to as the ‘square format’, gets its nickname from the shape of the image it produces. It is especially prevalent in medium format cameras. The origin of this ratio can be traced back to ancient film sizes, and it continues to be used in digital and printed photographs, appearing as a square format.


The panoramic format, characterized by its wide dimensions, offers increased visibility for areas that many other aspect ratios may not cover. However, this format is gradually disappearing from popular devices such as HDTVs, computer monitors, and smartphones. The resulting slim rectangles are typically upscaled to resolutions such as 1920x1080 and 1280x720, which is a departure from the 4:3 aspect ratio that has traditionally been one of the common options on different screens and medium format cameras.

How to Adjust Aspect Ratio

Two techniques can be utilized for adjusting the aspect ratio: rearranging camera menu settings or making use of post-production options. In the following sections, we will delve into these two methods to help you achieve the perfect image.

Adapting to Your Camera’s Settings

Be aware that depending on the type and model of your camera, you may have the ability to change the aspect ratio of your pictures through your camera’s settings. However, it’s important to note the following:

When shooting in RAW mode, you generally have the advantage of not needing to crop your images later. The aspect ratio adjustments made in-camera typically do not affect RAW shots, allowing you the freedom to modify the ratio during post-processing without compromising image quality.

On the other hand, some cameras only apply aspect ratio modifications when shooting in JPEG format. If you modify the aspect ratio in-camera and capture images in JPEG, the resulting files will already have the selected aspect ratio. However, it’s important to be cautious when cropping or resizing these JPEGs afterward, as unexpected outcomes may arise due to further alterations to the image.

In summary, shooting in RAW mode provides flexibility for adjusting aspect ratios during post-processing, while resizing JPEGs with modified aspect ratios can lead to unexpected results.

In many instances, the camera menu will provide options for adjusting the aspect ratio. Here are some examples of how to access the aspect ratio settings in different camera brands:

  1. Nikon and mirrorless cameras: Press the menu button and navigate to “Photo Shooting Menu” > “Choose Image Area”. This menu should allow you to easily modify your aspect ratio settings.
  2. Canon and mirrorless cameras: To access the Crop/Aspect Ratio menu in Canon and mirrorless cameras, you will need to navigate to the Shooting Menu. From there, you can find the option to adjust the aspect ratio.
  3. Sony mirrorless cameras: Explore the Aspect Ratio sub-menu within the ‘Shooting Menu’ to unlock the power of Sony’s mirrorless cameras for photography. For example, the Sony A7 offers different shooting styles such as 3:2 and 16:9, while the Sony A7R IV includes additional options like 4:3 and 1:1 aspect ratios.

These instructions should help you find and adjust the aspect ratio settings on your camera, allowing you to capture images with the desired proportions.

Adjusting in Third-Party Apps

If you prefer to adjust the dimensions of your images using post-production software or online tools, there are various options available. Here’s how you can make adjustments using Lightroom and MyCropImage.


  1. Access the ‘Crop & Straighten’ feature in the Develop module by selecting it.
  2. To modify the aspect ratio, choose the drop-down menu next to the padlock icon labeled “Original”. This will reveal different aspect ratio selections.
  3. Select the desired aspect ratio that best suits your project, considering options like 4x5, 5x7 for print, and 4x3, 16x9 for gadgets.


  1. With MyCropImage, the process is simple. Use the cropper tool and select the area you want to crop with your mouse.
  2. Choose from the available aspect ratio options, such as Square 1:1, Landscape 3:2, Slide 4:3, Widescreen 16:9, Portrait 2:3, 9:16, Banner 3:1, and Tall 1:2.
  3. This tool allows you to tailor your images to fit specific dimensions for popular social media networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. It provides flexibility to add or remove aspect ratios based on your personal preference.

These tools enable users to easily adjust the aspect ratio of their images, ensuring they are suitable for different platforms and purposes.


What is the aspect ratio of a JPEG?

This is the relationship between an image’s width and height. It is typically represented as a decimal number. Professionals in the visual industry often take this aspect ratio into consideration when creating and designing visuals.

What is the best aspect ratio?

There is indeed no one-size-fits-all aspect ratio that applies to all photographers and industries. The choice of aspect ratio depends on the photographer’s intent, creative vision, and the specific requirements of the medium or platform where the images will be displayed.

Currently, the industry standard format for many cameras and prints is 3:2, which provides a balanced and versatile composition. However, 4:3 aspect ratio has also gained popularity, particularly in certain fields such as smartphone photography and digital medium format cameras. The 4:3 aspect ratio can offer a more square-like composition that suits various subjects and creative styles.

What are the best aspect ratios for optimal social media viewing?

There are specific guidelines to follow when it comes to aspect ratios for social media. Here are some commonly recommended ratios for different platforms:

  • Profile pictures on most platforms: 1:1 (square ratio)
  • Instagram image sizes: 1:1 (square ratio)
  • Meta (Facebook) cover pictures: 2.63:1
  • Meta (Facebook) shared links: 1.9:1
  • Twitter header pictures: 3:1

By adhering to these recommended ratios, you can ensure that your images are displayed optimally on social media platforms and make the most of their visual impact.

How can I adjust the aspect ratio?

When it comes to altering the aspect ratio of a photo, you have two options. The first option is to access and select from the range of aspect ratio options available in your camera’s menu settings. The second option involves using professional third-party software such as Lightroom or online services like MyCropImage. These tools provide easy-to-use interfaces where you can modify the aspect ratio of your photo after it has been captured.


Overall, selecting the right composition for your photos is crucial to achieving the desired result. Modern cameras offer various formats, including square, rectangular, and panoramic, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your needs. This decision should be made thoughtfully as it will greatly impact the outcome of your photos.

When it comes to creating stunning photos, mastering the art of composition and considering the dimensions of your shot is vital. This is especially important on platforms like Instagram (IG), where having a well-planned aspect ratio can significantly enhance the final presentation of your work. Developing this mastery requires practice and a thorough understanding of how to effectively frame each shot.