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I've not had photos printed in store for a while, but took some to be developed into a camera shop the other day. My camera is a Canon 100D. I ordered 6x4 prints to go into an album for a birthday surprise, but all photos were cropped by the shop. In some cases the top of heads have been taken off. In a group photo, the person on the end of the line is missing half her arm! Anyone have any thoughts as to why before I go back to see them?

  • Hi there. I am using a Canon EOS 100D. DSLR. – Geoff Wright Mar 1 '16 at 17:55
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    The Canon 100D DSLR has native image shape of 3:2, which should match the 6x4 paper and there should be no issue (for 6x4 prints). However, the 100D will allow you to specify other shapes, of 1:1 or 4:3 or 16:9. If you did that, those won't fit 6x4 paper. – WayneF Mar 1 '16 at 18:02
  • Sorry, pressed wrong button on keyboard. I have camera set on 3:2 which I was advised was the best option. – Geoff Wright Mar 1 '16 at 18:11
  • 3:2 should print 6x4 inches without any issues of cutting off heads. It's actually pretty hard to imagine that it could happen. Maybe the print lab could help answer? I imagine they will be willing to reprint it. But 3:2 printing 5x7 or 8x10 will be a similar problem. – WayneF Mar 1 '16 at 18:13
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    I was in a local town today and called in at the High Street camera shop. I explained my problems of the cropping to the owner, who laughed when I showed him the cropped photos. He said that whoever had printed them off did not know what they were doing and promptly printed me off an example of 1 of my photos. The 6x4 was perfect, with nothing cropped and the colours were fantastic. I did not mention the colour yesterday as I thought it may have been my fault. I had the rest printed, and it has restored my faith in the printing process. Thanks again – Geoff Wright Mar 2 '16 at 18:43
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I'm assuming you probably used a compact type camera with an image shape of 4:3 (long side of image is 4/3 longer than short side, which describes a "shape").

But a 6x4 print is the shape 3:2... simply not the same shape. So not all of the image will fit on the paper. Images generally have to be cropped first to fit the desired paper shape. And most print sizes have a shape different from each other, and probably none are the shape of the image (before it is cropped).

6x4 inches - 3:2 shape
5x7 inches - 5:7 shape
8x10 inches - 4:5 shape

compact type cameras - 4:3 shape
DSRL cameras - 3:2 shape
Camcorders - 16:9 shape.

enter image description here

The print lab operators could watch and manually position your image on the paper to avoid cutting off heads, but for only a few cents each, normally today, the machines are on full automatic, and the machines don't know or care about heads. It is our job to do today, first.

Many online printing services offer a web page crop tool to aid this crop effort.
The larger walk-in shops should have a machine with a screen to aid this crop effort.
Or my site has a description of how to do this at home: http://www.scantips.com/lights/resize.html

  • Many shops offer 6x4.5" prints, which would avoid any cropping. – vclaw Mar 1 '16 at 17:51
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    Hi there. Thanks for reply. I am using a Canon EOS 100D. DSLR – Geoff Wright Mar 1 '16 at 17:56
  • Good answer. Just to complement: In video we were used to have a "safe frame". Do that. Simply leave some more "air" on the sides. – Rafael Mar 2 '16 at 20:08
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In analog days, the (cheap) prints from negatives were (almost?) always cropped on all sides, probably to be on the safe side and not include any border.
When i scanned my negatives, i was astonished how much detail had been lost on the prints.

It is possible that the default printing process still crops the frame to prevent border problems.

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Significant cropping is caused by aspect-ratio difference. When the photo and paper do not match, the tendency from most places it to do a proportional resize and crop.

Ideally would crop to the right aspect-ratio and reframe yourself to make the outcome more predictable and decide on what is most important in your frame.

Should you not want to spend the time then there three options left that can be done automatically at a print shop:

  • Bordered Print - This will print the full image within a paper which is larger and you will have some borders on all sides which may be of different sizes if the aspect-ratios do not match. This is also the only guaranteed way of getting exactly what you captured.
  • Resize and Fit - Here your photos are resized proportionally so that they fit within the chosen print size. For example, my first digital photos were taken with a Minolta Dimage 5i which as a 4:3 aspect ratio and so I had 5 1/3 x 4" images print on 6" x 4" paper which left 1/3" borders on each side.
  • Disproportional scale - This one will distort your images so that they fit exactly to the 4 edges. It is done sometimes but it not usually suitable for photos of people as they will look abnormally thin or wide. It can work for small changes in aspect-ratio though.

Slight cropping still occurs when printing borderless even if the aspect ratios match exactly. That is why you need 4 borders to have the exact image printed. Otherwise some pixels may be lost along all sides due to the printing process. This is called bleed. Professional print shops sometimes supply a template file (usually a PSD) where you can place your image and there have predefined guides that show what may fall into the bleed area. From my experience, these are usually made conservative so that roughly half of what is in the bleed area still gets printed.

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