Tag Archives: Digital Photography

Printing Digital Images – matching image and print sizes

Sizing your Photographic prints from digital images

Ever lost part of an image when you had prints made?  Wondered why?

One of the challenges you may face when printing digital images is getting the right size print from the original image file.  Many (most?) digital cameras have an image sensor that captures images at a 2:3 ratio.  What this means is that one side of the RAW image is typically 1.5 times the other side.  How does this impact prints?  If you want a 4×6 print (or some even multiple of the 2:3 ratio like 8×12, 16×24, etc.) then you will get a ‘full frame’ image.  If you want an 8×10 print then some cropping will occur (you will have to discard ~17% of the original image, usually from the top and bottom and/or sides.)

The photographic film print business relied on standard sized prints for years (and most of us are already accustomed to these print & frame sizes) but the arrival of digital images is both creating new print sizes as well as bringing some possible confusion into the mix.  Since most prints are destined for framing (esp. larger prints) then it makes some sense to simplify the matching of print to frame by using standard sizes for both images and frame mats.  Some terms:

  • Full frame image:  all of the image data is used
  • Cropped image: only parts of the image data is used
  • Print image size: what are the actual dimensions of the printed image vs the dimensions of the paper on which the image is printed; sometimes these are the same

Standard frame sizes usually include standard mat openings – when you print then you need to consider the size of the opening (unless you intend to cut a custom mat for each print – lots of work.)  It is simpler to use standard sized prints for standard sized mat openings.  In general you should subtract .5″ from each side of the print size to reach a mat size that will cover your print & paper size.  Note that by including/adding an empty border to your print you have additional control/options for the size of the image.

Pre-cut Mat

Mat Opening

Size of Print Area

Print Paper Size **

















** Print paper sizes will vary for custom prints; print paper size for commercial prints is usually the same as the print size, i.e. the image size of a full-frame 4×6 print is 4×6.  It is common to print with large borders on ink-jet papers, i.e. an 8×10 image on 11×14 paper would have 1.5″ left and right borders with 2″ top and bottom borders.  For large prints this allows space for an artist signature or other print-related information.

My solution when printing from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is to increase the print size by 0.15″ based on the mat window opening.  So if the frame label in the store has a description like, ” 8 x 10 frame matted to 5 x 7″ I will:

  • start by cropping my original image to closely match my  destination print size, i.e. crop to 5×7 when printing 5×7, crop to 8×10 when printing 8×10, etc.)
  • size my print image layout to 5.15 x 7.15″ (or 8.15 x 10.15 when printing an 8×10)
  • select the ‘zoom to fill’ option (you will only ‘lose’ a very small portion of your image)
  • print on 8.5×11 photo paper
  • after printing, I will remove (cut) 0.25″ from each side of the print as well as removing 0.50″ from the top and bottom (make the print fit into the 8×10 frame.)
Image Print-SIZE & Matt Opening
Pre-cut Mat Mat Opening Size of Print Area Print Paper Size **
8×10 5×7 5.15 x 7.15 8.5×11
11×14 8×10 8.15 x 10.15 8.5×11
12×16 8×12 8.15 x 12.15 11×14
16×20 11×14 11.15 x 14.15 13×19

How does print size impact Image Capture & Editing?

As a photographer I consider the possible cropping scenarios when I capture images.  When working with a group I may add a fudge factor when framing the image in the camera (i.e. allow some space on the sides of the image so that a standard sized print can be easily cropped from the image.)  When I am preparing images for delivery to clients I may also crop the the images to standard sizes (i.e. creating full-frame image sizes of 5×7 or 8×10.)

Photography Business – comments for College Students

In response to queries from College level photography students I have compiled some comments for frequent questions.

Some General Comments about the Business of Photography

  1. Unless you have a studio name then your name is your ‘brand’ – use it in all of your business communications and on all of your web images; you need a web site that is optimized for search; the content should target your market(s)…

  2. An anonymous email address is ok on a functional level but on a Business level you need ‘branded communications’; i.e. a gmail/yahoo/msn email address is ok but it is also generic and does not promote you – for business communications consider something like: YOU@your_name.com (let your brand be simple to remember); business communications should always include name/address/email/web/phone – always…

  3. Consider joining EP (student rate) and research the industry as well as other professional photography organizations – lots of real-world info: http://www.editorialphoto.com/ Note that there are alternative views to ‘the business’ than what EP promotes – in the end you need to know when you are being taken advantage of as well as what is good for business.

  4. Always register your images with the US Copyright Office before publication

  5. Don’t give your work away! It’s fine to barter but there are no freebies in business. (lots more on the EP web site.)

  6. When communicating for business always follow-up (i.e. It’s distressing when students initiate a contact, I respond and then they don’t follow-up – Do you follow up???)

  7. People networking is very important – stay in touch with your peers as well as those folks that you encounter along the way; you never know who will wind up being the photo editor who is going to call people from their network before going elsewhere…

  8. For an alternative view on Editorial work check out http://www.danheller.com/ – he has a number of interesting ideas about all of the above and more (his blog contains a number of interesting ideas/comments.)

Note that while connected, there is quite a bit of business difference between “Fine Art Photography” and ‘editorial’. There are a number of books out – you may want to review “Selling Art Without Galleries” as a starter.

Some common questions from students (and my answers):

  • In what format do most magazines ask that you shoot (35mm, digital etc.)?
    I am all digital so I won’t get calls for anything else.

  • Does the magazine embargo your work for syndication or do you get the work back immediately?
    N/A in an all digital scenario – I only send out copies of images files; licensing may limit things on my end.

  • Does photographing editorially allow you the time you would like for your personal work?
    For me there is no/little difference; everything that I shoot is potential for editorial delivery.

  • What advice do you have for an up and coming photographer looking to get work in the editorial field?
    You need thick skin – ‘no’ is more likely than any other response – don’t take it personally – it is usually less about your work than it is about meeting a very specific need/timeframe/etc. Unless you live where there is significant demand and little competition, don’t rely on editorial work as a main income source of income; better to mix things up with advertising, commercial, studio or other work…

  • Do you use interns in your studio?
    No.  I do, however, maintain a list of local resources and I do need assistants for some photo sessions. Express your interest in a professional manner and I may contact you.  After meeting you and reviewing your work I may add you to my resource list.

  • How did you get business in the beginning?
    I am ‘non-traditional’ – Hmmm, fate? destiny? still working on it? I don’t have a straight answer – photography is a part of what I do (along with music and computing…)

  • Do you think I should plan to assist first?
    I don’t have any experience with this; based on what I have read it could be a great move in the right location (i.e. major city with lots of opportunities to both learn and build your network (BrAND!); if I were younger I would probably give it a whirl.   🙂

  • What specific subjects and/or styles should be represented in my portfolio?
    Again, non-traditional experience – what matters is will folks be moved to do something when they see your images (i.e. make a purchase, shed a tear, think! send you an email?) IMO – the images should be those that you feel are important as well as varied in content, size, materials.

  • Any information or advice you could give is greatly appreciated and helpful.
    It’s all about BRAND/marketing and people-networking! Craft is good; talent is good; without branding/networking no one will see your work or know who you are… I.E. – when you search on the Internet the results *usually* reflect the branding work of the sites that show up. When photo editor gets a call are you on their list of new talent?