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When I try to order prints of daughter's wedding pictures they are cropped, and I can't get the full picture that shows in the link the photographer sent to me. I have tried several different printing places and sizes: 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10. They all crop off. I'm especially wanting full length pictures, but sometimes all I can get is 3/4 of the picture.

Why are the images cropped when I try to print them? How can I get prints with the full image?

  • In which country are you and which places have you tried? – lijat Jan 1 at 8:42
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    What aspect ratio are the images the photographer sent you? – Michael C Jan 1 at 8:48
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    If you do not want them cropped by the printer you need to specify, print them full frame, if you want control over the final image then crop them yourself BEFORE YOU SEND THEM TO THE PRINTER or ask the photographer to do it. If you print full frame you will likely need custom mats. – Alaska man Jan 3 at 5:22
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This likely happens because the "aspect ratio" of your pictures doesn't match the aspect ratio of the print.

  • High-end cameras typically produce pictures with a 3:2 aspect ratio: on landscape mode, the width is one half larger than the height. This matches a 6"x4" paper.
  • Low-end cameras and smartphones use a 4:3 aspect ratio
  • Of course the photographer can edit the picture and give it any aspect ratio.

If you print a 3:2 picture on a 8"x10" paper, the image is scaled, and both dimensions are scaled equally. So when you make the width fit the 10" of the paper, the height of the picture becomes 10"*2/3 = 6.7": you would get margins above and/or below the printed picture. But if you match the height, the necessary width is 8"*3/2 = 12" that won't fit the 10" and some of your image is cropped.

To answer more completely we would need the actual size in pixels of your pictures.

  • If this happens depend on how the printer prints, some places I have ordered from only specifies one print dimension and print on long stripes that are then cut to preserve picture aspect ratio – lijat Jan 1 at 14:34
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    Cropping behaviour depends on the print service. Need to check what behaviour the print service specifies. – osullic Jan 1 at 15:35
  • The images could also be in 16:9 or 8:5 aspect ratio. Though if that's the case, that person should no longer qualify as a photographer. – xiota Jan 2 at 17:03
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You might simply be buying the wrong kind of service for the task at hand.

There are mass-finishing services (like what you can order from a drugstore), and then there are "professional labs" that can do bespoke printing jobs. The latter will obviously be more expensive; if it is a set of hundreds of images, you might want to previously filter out the mediocre ones and only have a ten or twenty of them.

Your local camera store should be able to tell you where to find a professional lab in town, if they do not even have one inhouse.

Also, if the photographer was OK with sending you a link to printable original files, appreciate that openness and be fair and ask him for a quote for making or organizing great prints of your favorites... and if the price is anything near fair compared to a pro lab(!!! Do not compare the pricing to a drugstore service, you will insult the photographer!), go that route.

  • Even a mass printing service should be able to print with correct aspect ratio, of they are realy inflexible you could use photoshop or similar to pad your images with a white border untill you get the aspect ratio they use and the crop the physical picture yourself – lijat Jan 2 at 13:43
  • "should be able to print with correct aspect ratio" that is doubtful ( i would argue that their basic printing machine/software is not capable of printing full frame ) and even it is was it is unlikely the employees have the knowledge to do it. If you do not go to a pro lab then physically go to Costco and tell them you want them printed full frame – Alaska man Jan 3 at 5:16
  • @lijat not necessarily. If the images are 2x3 and OP buys an 8x10, then there's no way around it - the images are getting cropped. In that case, OP should have bought an 8x12. Also, between the option of getting a cropped image or an image with padding, most people would prefer the crop, as that extra padding is just going to look wonky in a frame. – Hueco Jan 4 at 18:07
  • @Hueco regarding crop versus padding, I would have guessed padding would be preffered but I have no data on this. Anyhow adding padding oneself is easy enough – lijat Jan 4 at 20:03
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I have tried several different printing places and sizes: 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10.

If the images are straight out of a modern DSLR, then their aspect ratio is 2x3. This means that the 4x6 should be the whole image - no crop. However, this is contingent on the print service. Use a local professional lab or a lab that allows you to select your own crops online (like mpix.com).

Assuming a vertical photo, a 5x7 will crop a smidge off. Automated printing services will typically center the crop so that a bit is taken off both the top and bottom. If you use a service that allows you to select the crop, you could move the cropped portion to the bottom, top, or anywhere in between.

An 8x10 will need to crop the most off of the image in order to fit that aspect ratio.

If you want absolutely full size images like the ones you see on your computer screen (again, assuming these are 2x3 to start), then you need to print these sizes: 2x3, 4x6, 8x12, 12x18, 16x24...

Keep in mind that the more common sizes are 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, 16x20...

So, if you plan on framing these images, make sure you have the frame first (unless you don't mind paying for custom frames). Another budget friendly option is to mat the photo within a standard sized frame (for example, print an 8x12 and mat it to fit into an 11x14 frame, which are ubiquitous and constantly on sale).

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