What are Aspect Ratios in Photography?

Aspect ratios are an important part of photography and understanding them can help you take better pictures. In photography, aspect ratios refer to the ratio between the width and the height of an image. Aspect ratios are expressed as a fraction, such as 4:3 or 16:9, and are used to describe how much of an image is shown on different displays.

Types of Aspect Ratios

The most common aspect ratios in photography are 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, and 1:1. 4:3 is the traditional aspect ratio used in 35mm photography and was most common in digital cameras until recently. 3:2 is the aspect ratio of 35mm film and many DSLR cameras. 16:9 is the aspect ratio used in most HD and 4K video, and it is becoming more popular in digital photography as well. Finally, 1:1 is the square format aspect ratio popularized by Instagram and often used for portraits.

How Aspect Ratios Affect Composition

Aspect ratios are important for composition because they define the shape of your frame and how much of the scene is included in the image. For example, if you want to capture a landscape in its entirety, you may choose a 4:3 aspect ratio. If you want to focus on a single subject, you may choose a 1:1 aspect ratio. Aspect ratios can also be used creatively to emphasize certain elements in a composition. For example, photographing a tall building in a 16:9 frame can emphasize the height of the structure.

Choosing the Right Aspect Ratio

When choosing an aspect ratio, you should consider the type of image you are making and the story you want to tell. If you are shooting a video, you should use 16:9 as it is the most common aspect ratio for video. If you are shooting a portrait, a 1:1 aspect ratio may be the best choice. If you are shooting landscapes or architecture, 3:2 is usually the best option. Of course, you can always experiment with different aspect ratios to get creative results.

Aspect ratios are an important part of photography and understanding them can help you take better pictures. Different aspect ratios can be used for different types of images, and they can also be used to create interesting compositions. Experimenting with different aspect ratios can help you discover new ways to tell stories through your photography.

Generally speaking aspect ratios are express as two numbers with a semi colon between them.

For example a square aspect ratio would be 1:1 whereas classic 35mm film is 3:2.

Here are some common aspect ratios
1.25:1 (5:4)
Early television & large-format computer monitors

1.33:1 (4:3)
Traditional television & computer monitor standard

Academy standard film aspect ratio

√2:1 ~1.4142:1, ISO 216 paper sizes (A4)

IMAX motion picture film format

1.5:1 (3:2)
Classic 35 mm still photographic film

1.6:1 (8:5) (aka 16:10)
A common computer screen ratio.

1.6180:1 (16.18:10)
The golden ratio

1.6667:1 (5:3)
A common European widescreen std.; Native Super 16 mm film.

1.77:1 or 1.78:1 (16:9)
HD video std.; U.S. digital broadcast TV std.

A common US widescreen cinema standard

A current widescreen cinema standard

Here are some common sensor sizes:
digital camera sensor size comparison

See also: