If only all photograph sizes were proportional!
Frustratingly, they are not. 4x6 doesn't equal 5x7 which doesn't equal 8x10, and so on.
If you don't quite get why, think of fractions. 4/6 doesn't equal 5/7, etc.
So when someone brings us a standard sized shot like 4x6 and wants to enlarge it, that becomes 8x12, not 8x10!
Likewise if we find some old, odd size (or at photo Aunt Shirley cut with a scissor), we could be starting with
something strange, like 3x6! No one can print those sizes; the paper doesn't exist.
That doesn't mean we're out of luck.
It means we have to choose between two options: Padding or Cropping.
Cropping is the simplest to understand. it means cutting out part of the picture to make it the proportions we want.
Sometimes, this is simple, like cutting away unnecessary sky (if we need to get rid of some vertical space) or
getting rid of a building to the right that we don't care about (if we need to get rid of some horizontal space).
With these methods, we can make a picture fit common sizes.
For instance, in this shot, we could
cut his sleeve to make it 5x7 or we could cut from the bottom to make it work
We could also have taken a bit from the top instead of quite so much from the bottom; that's personal choice.
Original Odd Size What 5x7 would cut on the right What 8x10 would cut on bottom
But sometimes, especially with portraits, there's really nothing to cut. We can't lose a forehead or chin vertically.
We can't lose ears horizontally, so what can we do?
Padding is the solution in these cases. With padding, we enlarge only to the point where cropping would occur
and then add either white stripes or black stripes (you choose) to the needed side to get the right size.
You can either choose to live with the stripes or, after printing, have your shot custom framed so the stripes get cut off.
Here's an example of padding. As you can see, the client sent us a tall, skinny image, about 2x5. There is no such
size in any proportion. So since we didn't want to lose the necklace or any of her hair we added to black stripes
to the sides so that the client could print his grandmother at 5x7. Depending on the original size and the desired outcome,
sometimes padding is on the top and bottom, instead of the right and left.
Original Odd Size 5x7 with black padding on sides
Occasionally, with a shot like the one above, a client will ask for just a little bit of padding on the top and bottom as well.
This way, it looks more like a matting than stripes (see below).
The image has to be a made a bit smaller for that, but if it's a desired look, we can do that.
In this case, her black dress acted like padding, so we only added a thin stripe across the top.
5x7 with black padding on sides and a bit on top
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