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by Phil Ball

Q. When I want prints made, I send them to the local store and they make nice prints for me. The problem is that sometimes they cut something important out of my images along one edge or another. Why do they do that?

A. It is one of the oddities of the photographic world that print sizes and images shapes do not always match. Put simply, the shape of the image frequently does not match the shape of most prints. When comparing the sizes of the sides of the print, it turns out that they are simply just not the same shape as the original image and in order to make a print that size, the lab has cut off a little of both opposite sides to make it fit.

For instance, your camera may make an image that is a ratio of 4:3. That means that there are 1/3 more pixels on the long side than there are on the short side. So if the image is 4:3 ratio, enlarging it would make a 8"x6" or a 16"x12" print which would still maintain the 4:3 ratio so your print would show the entire image. But if you want to make a more common 8"x10" print, some of the original image on the 8" sides will have to be left out since an 8"x10" print is squarer than the original 4:3 image. To make it fit, you would either have to squeeze the image which might make noticeable and objectionable distortions, or you would have to cut some of the image off. The lab simply takes the only valid choice and leaves some of the image off to make it fit onto the more square shape of an 8"x10" print.

The only way to control this effect is to crop the images before sending them to the lab. Then you can decide how you want them adjusted to fit the paper. This is just one of those things that you have to put up with since there is no better way to fit your images to paper.

Published: Courier 11/3/13 - Page 3C