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Your Book (Portfolio Presentation) part 1: aspect ratio – “the crop”

It was about one year into my photographic career when I first sat down to put together a book.  In this digital age where it’s hard to find a printed phone book, the importance of your online portfolio presentation cannot be overestimated.  However, there comes a time in a young fashion photographer’s career when a printed portfolio is called for.

It is quite possible to have a lucrative career in many genres of photography without ever showing a printed book.  This post is intended to assist those photographers & models whose clients do request their book.  Working professionals from architectural photographers all the way across the board to high fashion makeup artists can benefit from representing themselves with a quality book.

I will not discuss in detail the style & design of your book during this post.  Part 2 of this series will delve into that in detail.  First, I would like to discuss aspect ratio.  I think this is a good place to start due to widespread ignorance on the topic.  I too fell victim to the assumption that my DIGITALslr produced book-ready images.  For the first year I was shooting, I composed the shot in camera as I expected to display the final image.  Even when I cropped down images, I maintained the same aspect ratio as the raw file.

The following is a quote from Blue Cube Imaging:

In our industry standard portfolio sizes for models (9×12), photographers and MUA’s (11×14) do not fit the aspect ratio produced by the majority of todays cameras.

Current 3:2 aspect ratio cameras (95% or more of all SLR’s) print to 4×6, 6×9 (if your lab offers it), 8×12, 12×18, 16×24 & 20×30 without cropping. Any other size including 9×12 and 11×14 require cropping or another form of layout if you want to print full bleed (image all the way to the edge of the paper).

Printing 9×12’s & 11×14’s means that either the photographer or the lab is going to have to crop and size images for printing.

Coming from the unique perspective of a lab owner I would say that at least 60% of the images submitted for print have not been properly sized for output.

This diagram is to show just how much of an image can be lost to cropping:
http://gallery.photo.net/photo/8300873-lg.jpg
As you can see a large proportion of important information (heads, feet, arms, legs, etc.) is subject to cropping if a little room isn’t left around the main subject in while shooting. […]

In the event that you simply cannot crop an image because you will lose a key feature or part of the image it can be sized down and floated onto a 9×12 or 11×14 canvas.

My best suggestions:

Photographers, ask you client what size book they use and size your images for them. Also, supply them with a list of places you suggest for having them printed. Better yet, have them printed (or print them yourself) and supply them with a professionally produced finished and properly color corrected final product.

Models and MUA’s, let your photographers know what size you are going to print and ask them to set up your files accordingly. [end quote – Blue Cube Imaging]

There are possible fixes.  As stated in the above quote, you can size down & float on a canvas.  You can print with a border.  Also, it is possible to extend the top & bottom of the image in post-production with software.  As a matter of fact, the new release of Photoshop, CS5 (which is available with a 30 day free trial), has a new feature that can be vary helpful for just such a task.  Here is a video that demonstrates content-aware fill.

I hope this helps with understanding how to crop for your book.  I will be happy to answer any questions.  Happy cropping!!!

~John