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by Phil Ball

Q. Why does the lab cut off people’s heads when they make my prints?

A. This has been a common problem over the years and it is caused because your camera makes photos of a different shape than a 4x6” print. Most compact digital cameras have a shape of 3:4. That is, the short side of the image is 3 units and the longer side is 4 units. The problem arises when we want to make prints of a different shape. For example, a standard 4x6” print has a shape of 2:3. This means that the lab had to crop off a lot of the image to change the shape.

The easiest way to handle this is to compose the image in camera with extra space around it so that you can do the cropping necessary, cutting off unnecessary parts of the image without sacrificing important parts of the subject. Today’s multi-megapixel cameras are capable of making images far bigger than we usually need so the old concern about losing resolution by cropping is not nearly as important as it once was. I would also suggest that you do the cropping yourself at home before sending the images to the lab. That way, you can decide how to crop the image.

Most good image editing programs will allow you to crop your image to a fixed size like 4x6”. Even at that, leave a little extra room because few labs print exactly to the edges of the image.

Published: Courier 2/21/10 - Page 7C