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Online Print Cropping

The illustration below is was taken by a Canon Digital Rebel (D300). I added in the arrows to illustrate how the online print shops crop photographs. When most online printers create the images that they are going to be printing, they recreate the image starting at the center of the photograph and move out. When the LAST outside edge is reached the process stops rendering the image. This sounds a little complicated, but the images at the bottom of the page should help illustrate this point.

You need to take a look at the manual that came with your camera to understand what your camera is doing. For example, the maximum resolution of the Nikon Coolpix 880 is 3264x2448 pixels. If you divide the big number by 3 and then multiply the result by 2, you get 2176 NOT 2448. This means that the Nikon CP8800 takes 4:3 ratio images [to check 3264 / 4 = 816 * 3 = 2448 --> 3264 x 2448 is the maximum dimension]. For the Canon Digital Rebel the maximum resolution is 3072x2048 pixels. To check, 3072 / 3 = 1024 * 2 = 2048, which is a 3:2 ratio image sensor.

This photo was taken with a Digital SLR camera the image ratio is 3:2, which is an ideal image size for a 4x6 print -->MOST digital cameras are not like this. Most digital cameras have an aspect ratio of 4:3, which is designed for a different size photo print (4x5.333). The easiest way for you to remember this is that the DSLR (3:2 ratio) cameras are like a wide-screen video and the point-and-shoot digital cameras (4:3) are like a regular TV screen. The difference is that there's no black stripe -- there's only going to be pixels that are cropped off from 2 of the sides.

The photograph below was taken with a Nikon Coolpix 995, which has an image ratio of 4:3 -- this is the most common sensor size for point-and-shoot digital cameras. The original pixel dimensions of the image are 2048x1536. This is ideal for taking NONE of the most popular photograph sizes EXCEPT for 4xD. This first image illustrates what will happen to a point-and-shoot image printed at 4x6, roughly 1/4 inch will be cropped from both the top and the bottom of the image. [note, i've taken the same image and rotated it to the right to illustrate a 'landscape' as well as a 'portrait' image.]

The yellow bars represent approximations as to what portions of the image will be cropped as a result of the online printing process. In this case, nothing critical was chopped out, but you should keep in mind that about 14-25% of the SMALLER dimension will be cropped. For more examples on the cropping that will occur on 4:3 images [point-and-shoot], click here. For more examples on the cropping that will occur on 3:2 images [DSLR], click here.
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