Cropping Family Portraits for Maximum Impact

Ratios for Cropping Pictures

Here are the most used crops for family pictures; 4:5, 5:7, 2:3, 1:2, 1:1.  Just so you know what this is here are some examples of how the different ratios are used in print sizes.

  1. 4:5 ratios will create 4×5, 8×10, 16×20’s and then the close enough sizes of 20×24 and 30×40.
  2. 5:7 is used for you guessed it 5×7’s
  3. 2:3 ratios are 4×6, 8×12, 20×30 and 18×36  this is the actual ratio that 35mm cameras use to capture pictures
  4. 1:2 ratios are 5×10 10×20, 15×30 and 20×40, etc.
  5. 1:1 (this is a square) 5×5, 8×8, 10×10 and so on

So the first question I would ask is why are there so many?  The answer is it was largely do to the evolution of cameras because prints were made from the size of the camera’s negative or plate.  And then some sizes became standard and parts of the picture were removed..Cropped.. to make it the right size.

Cropping makes a difference in Portraits

The picture below is un-cropped in a 2:3 ratio and shows more sky than the people in it.


So what it shows us is the beautiful sky,and how relatively low the people are jumping. These two things are not the most important messages we wanted to tell the viewer.  So lets crop it and see what we get.



So now we see a 1:2 ratio and less sky, bigger faces and we can more easily see expressions.


The bodies look like they are jumping higher and take up a greater percentage of the image. This is a really good way to go when you have a lot of people in a row.




The next and most common ratio is 4:5 producing the ever so popular 8×10, 16×20 and then on up.  So in the 1:2 ratio we cropped the 2:3 ratio by cutting out from the top and bottom.  In our 4:5 ratio crop we will cut away from the sides to better show our Family.

Above you see the original 2:3 ratio and you will notice that the the family is slightly off center and only take up about 25 percent of the image. If you are looking to high light the garden area, this a beautiful image. However if your goal is to better see your family  and high light them,  you are going to have to crop it.  Below when cropped into the 4:5 ratio we have cut the sides and also centered the family.



Here we only cropped enough to better balance the left and right sides.  But see how much better we can see the family.  This is the way I cropped the image to show the family because the garden area is so beautiful and I liked the balance for both elements.  Although, as you can see below it is possible to zoom in even more for total emphasis on the family.

Now we have the family taking up 75 percent of the image and we still have the 4:5 ratio, but it is has change to a vertical crop vs. the past horizontal crops.

As it turns out one of my favorite crops is the native 2:3 ratio at the 30×20 size that come right out of the camera and can be used to high light the family or the environment.  Because it is a larger print you will still be able to see faces in a normal sized room. Thus allowing the family to take up a smaller percentage of the image and still look great.  This is well demonstrated in the image below.

Family Portrait on the jetty Drakes Island, Maine

Our next image below will be for a larger family and they will take up more of the image.  So in this case the crop matches the shape of the family grouping, still in the 2:3 ratio

Beach Portrait at sunset in Maine

I hope this post sheds some light on cropping and ratios for family portraits.  As always feel free to give us a call with any questions you may have about Family Photography.   207-251-2739


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