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How to Choose the Best Aspect Ratio for Landscape Photos

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Related course: Simply Stunning Landscapes

Sometimes, the aspect ratio of your landscape images just doesn’t do the scenes any justice.

There is a way to make your scene better, and it’s a little different than the usual cropping method. Read here for all the information on aspect ratio for landscape photography.

a stunning mountainous landscape at sunset

What Are Ratios?

A ratio is the relationship of two numbers that relate to the same two-dimensional item. With photography, the two numbers that make a ratio are the Height and Width.

Every image has these two attributes. Your camera and any post-processing decide on what these numbers are.

These numbers are very important, especially when it comes to framing your print. It can be confusing, as many framing companies use a different ratio guide than camera manufacturers do.

For example, digital cameras, such as the Canon 5D Mark IV uses a ratio of 3:2.  Framers like 8×10 images, which has a ratio of 4:5.

We suggest getting the image as close to how you want it as possible. Then, find the frame to fit it. It is easy to have a frame made for a specific size. It isn’t necessarily cheap, however.

The ratios can be used for both landscape and portrait orientated images, and are designed to focus on the interesting elements in your scene.

Find out below where and why you should use each one.

an example of different aspect ratio sizes

Composition

Changing the ratio of an image can play a big part in the composition of your scenes. Changing the aspect ratio of your images in Photoshop, Lightroom or any other editing software can help reaffirm the interesting elements in your scene.

It works better than cropping. In some cases, cropping without a constraint means your image could have any aspect ratio possible. By sticking with aspect ratios, you keep a size that is both useful and attractive to the eyes.

Not only do you crop, remove distractions and place elements in the best places, you also emphasize the subjects and objects that matter.

Many digital cameras allow you to change your aspect ratio, allowing you to get the form that you want before taking the image.

This can save you time in the long run, as editing software may not be needed.

1:1 Aspect Ratio

a stunning landscape shot

When you have a landscape image where the majority of the interest is in the center, you need an aspect ratio to reflect that.

Choosing the 1:1 aspect ratio is a great way to remove parts of the image that distract you from the overall scene.

The 1:1 aspect ratio is also a great size for Instagram. Their natural shape is the 1:1 aspect ratio, and works well for images both of the portrait and landscape orientation.

a stunning landscape shot with 1:1 Aspect Ratio

2:1 Aspect Ratio

a stunning winter landscape scene

The 2:1 aspect ratio is a way to elongate the interesting parts of the image. This works really well when you have interesting elements that line up in the frame.

Take this image for example. In the foreground, you have the broken ice pattern, then the cabin, with the trees and the mountain in the background.

a stunning winter landscape scene with 2:1 Aspect Ratio

It works both for portrait and landscapes.

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 1:2 Aspect Ratio

The aspect ratio change in this image is less than drastic. But even the minutest changes can have the biggest effects. This aspect ratio fits the height of the landscape scene, forcing it to cut off a little from the sides.

It helps to show the interesting areas a little easier by zooming into the scene, even by a little. Here, I used the 1:2 aspect ratio to cut off a part of the sky as I found it a little distracting.

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 1:2 Aspect Ratio

3:2 Aspect Ratio

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 3:2 Aspect Ratio

This shot of Yosemite National Park in the USA already comes in a 2:3 aspect ratio. You’ll find that most digital cameras, this is a very common aspect ratio.

For resizing and cropping, it’s a very handy thing to know. Keeping the 3:2 aspect means that your images stay the same size, making it less complicated to work out sizes when it comes to printing.

In this image, I cropped the image all around. I focused on removing the water at the bottom so it forces the viewer to look at the mountains and trees towards the center.

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 3:2 Aspect Ratio

4:3 Aspect Ratio

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 4:3 Aspect Ratio

This is the ratio from any camera that uses the four-thirds sensor size, such as the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II. It isn’t too dissimilar from the 3:2 ratio we just looked at. 

If your digital camera captures in the 3:2 aspect ratio, then the height of the image will stay the same as the 4:3 aspect ratio.

Personally, this is my least favorite aspect ratio as it only removes part of the sides. This forces the image to look a little squashed. It isn’t exactly a square and doesn’t feel right as an aspect ratio.

But. A lot of ready-made frames sold by IKEA and other online stores seem to follow this and the 8×10 (4:5) aspect ratio closely. This is especially true of the 12:15 aspect ratio of 4:5 and 16:12 of 4:3.

This is a great aspect ratio to use for getting closer to the best possible printed-and-framed scene. It also removes parts from the sides without removing from the top, which sounds like a term used by barbers.

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 4:3 Aspect Ratio

16:9 Aspect Ratio

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 16:9 Aspect Ratio

The 16:9 aspect ratio is cinematic. It turns a usual 3:2 image into ‘widescreen’. I chose the 16:9 aspect ratio for this image to keep the width the same while removing the sky. I felt the blue sky was a little too distracting.

This is one of the photographic ratio’s that is more recent than some of the others. It’s partly down to our love of cinema and Tv’s/monitors. Even mobile phones started to follow the trend. If you remember APS (Advanced Photo System) film, that made it very popular.

As far as ratios go, this is by far one of my favorite aspect ratios to use. Most landscape images are taken in landscape orientation. They naturally fit the scenes.

a stunning mountainous landscape scene at sunset with 16:9 Aspect Ratio

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