I want to use some of my images for the background of a web page in my browser and for computer desktop wallpaper on my widescreen notebook.

When I use a (landscape oriented) picture as is (in a simple web page), the browser scales it to fill the width and centers it. This causes a lot of the top and bottom of the picture to be cropped.

If I resize the image in any way while maintaining the aspect ratio, it makes no difference. I had to resize it to 1600x700 without maintaining the aspect ratio to get most of my subject to fit vertically. That stretched the image so far horizontally as to be unusable.

It doesn't seem like there's any way to fix this.

What I want to know is how should I compose new photographs so that they will be usable for this purpose?

My first thought is to zoom out on the subject so the part I want fills around half of the height and then crop the picture vertically later. (With my current camera and a newer one, there should be plenty of pixels to support this.) This sounds like it would be hard to get the initial picture right, especially when the tendency is to fill the viewfinder/screen with the desired image.

Maybe my cameras or other similar ones can shoot in widescreen (16:9) to start with. I'd still have to resize it, but much less (because the browser window is wider than 16:9).

I'm relatively new to photography and just learning digital image manipulation. My older point and shoot digital camera takes images that are 3024x1184. (I also have a newer, higher end, point and shoot with much higher resolution and a number of manual settings.)

Right now, I do my digital work on Linux with gimp and imagemagick, but I also run Windows 7 and I have a copy of Lightroom that I have not installed yet.

As much as possible, I'd like an answer of "what" to do and not just "how" because I don't own Photoshop.

I read some things about bicubic scaling and about a liquid-scaling plugin for gimp, but they were a bit over my head.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't address how to compose for it, but in general, I just crop (not resize) the picture to the same aspect ratio... \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 3:13
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ That, and I leave a lot of negative space which makes it easy to crop and also makes it easier to see any icons on the desktop \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 3:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @drewbenn Great articles! Nothing to do with my question though. I'll check my cameras for the CHDK. One of them (Canon Elph) might have it. I don't have it here to look at now. That might actually be "the answer". \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ For web pages you may want to tweak around in order to have the image not resized but cropped (aligning left of image to left of screen, or center of image to center of screen). This can be done using CSS or JavaScript \$\endgroup\$
    – Paolo
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Paolo Thanks. I already found one of those and am working with it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 9:25

2 Answers 2


First, you should be aware that most wide screen laptops are not 16:9 - they are made with the screen shorter to reduce size and cost, for example, you said your monitor is 1600x700 - you don't need too much math to work out this is 16:7 and not 16:9.

Now that we got that out of the way it's actually easy to make a picture into a desktop background:

  1. First, be aware you will need to crop the image when you shoot it, the simplest option is to leave plenty of space on all 4 edges and let the OS do the work for you -on windows you set the tiling mode to "Crop to fit" (exact name changes between versions) and everything just works, you linux desktop should have a similar setting.

  2. If you want to crop the image yourself just scale it down in GIMP so the width of the picture is the same as the width of the screen and then crop it to fit the height.

Here's a diagram that will give you an idea how much space you need to leave when shooting:

Blue frame is 4:3 aspect ratio common in point&shoot camera

Red frame is 3:2 used in DSLRs and film cameras

Black area is 16:9

Yellow area is 16:7 (your screen)

Crop diagram

  • \$\begingroup\$ As you say, the actual ratio for wallpaper would be the screen pixel dimensions, but for the browser with toolbars, etc, it's a lot smaller. Just having 16:9 would still be an easier place to start from. I know neither case is exactly 16:9. As for cropping, that's post processing. The question is about composition. For "normal" pictures, cropping it that severely would ruin most images. They have to be composed "right" to make the cropped image viable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 13:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Joe - I wrote you have to be aware of cropping when shooting and leave plenty of empty space, if starting from 16:9 is easier for you go for it, but you will still need to crop over a fifth of the image's height (as opposed to about half with a 4:3 image common in point&shoot cameras) so you still can't fill the frame. and I ignored the web browser part because that's a completely different discussion that's not on-topic for this site (toolbar size can vary, the browser doesn't have to be maximized, page may be viewed from a device with different screen size, etc.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 8:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Joe - I've added a diagram that may help you visualize how much empty space you need to leave when shooting \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 8:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ The diagram is very helpful. I guess I'll just have to eyeball it when I'm shooting - unless my camera has a CHDK type option to make it easier. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 6, 2012 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The other issue to note is that task bars and browser tabs, menus, title bar etc, are often laid horizontally across the screen. This again shrinks the vertical real estate available down even further, changing the aspect ratio even more. \$\endgroup\$
    – Euan M
    Commented Dec 4, 2015 at 0:27

Though you didn't bring up the issue of clutter, personally I feel that a wallpaper should not have too much detail behind the icons, if any.

In this Windows "Dangerous Creatures" wallpaper, the bokehed background on the left allows the desktop icons to be easily seen.

At the same time, the lion on the right gazing to the left draws the eye towards the icons (provided that no icons cover the lion) and provides visual interest.

Additionally, there is enough background around the lion's head that it remains effective even after cropping to fit other aspect ratios.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate that. However, composition of the image is a separate question that might not even fit in this forum. I wear reading glasses and I'm careful about using appropriate backgrounds to make things easier to read. The idea of the lion facing the menu is cool though. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    Commented Aug 22, 2013 at 20:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.