It’s a frequent question at Photofocus. It goes something like this: “When I crop an image to look the way I want, it often doesn’t fit in a standard frame. What should I do?”
My answer is simple – ignore the standard frame sizes.
Shooting in standard aspect ratios like 4×5 (which will in turn when enlarged, fit 8×10″ frames) is limiting. If you as the photographic storyteller thinks the image looks better in a 4.234×7.233 aspect ratio then so be it. Who are the frame companies to tell you how to size your photo?
Excuse me but the photograph is what matters – not the frame. Who goes out and shoots a wonderful waterfall shot with the FRAME in mind? The frame is subservient to the photograph. The frame’s job is to simply support the photo – not the other way around.
Yes, there are some beautiful frames out there. And yes there are some framers who are nothing short of artists themselves. But the role of the frame is to support the photograph, so in every way, the frame is less important than the image.
The practical problem here is that custom frames cost more than standard frames. For this reason, many photographers find themselves hamstrung and stuck in traditional aspect ratios. But there is a workaround.
Step up in size. If your image would typically fit in a 16×20″ frame, but it’s a bit too long on one side, step up to the next standard size frame and simply purchase a custom mat. You can have a custom mat computer cut at many hobby and frame stores for $20. Then you buy the standard frame. Insert the custom mat and you’ve saved a ton over having a custom frame built.
As for displaying images on the web who cares? Whether it’s 2×3, 4×5, 6×9 or somewhere in between, the aspect ratio shouldn’t define the edges of your photographs – your vision should.
There is one exception to this rule. If you’re giving a print as a gift to someone else and you are NOT including a frame, then stick with standard aspect ratios so that the recipient of the gift doesn’t have to jump through many hoops to get the piece framed.
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