Jo Wheeler - Photographer
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Printing your pictures

Printing photographs supplied by your wedding photographer

If you have some pictures to print, either supplied by me or another photographer or simply from your mobile phone, it can sometimes seem they never come out quite how you expected.

Here I’ll try to explain why that might be and what you can do about it before you pay for your prints.

Cameras either professional or on your mobile phone will take a picture in a pre-specified size, trouble is, that size isn’t the same size as the pictures you choose to print.

If you’ve had pictures developed and they’ve come back with a bit of someone’s head missing, or feet or anything that you know was in the picture when you took it, you are not alone, I think we’ve all had those sorts of pictures come back from the printers at least once. Experience is an expensive commodity.

So, two things could be going wrong here – first off, there was not enough space around your subject when you took the picture, or without realising, you ordered the wrong size print.

Remembering to take a picture with enough space around your subject should be easy enough to do but to make sure you order the right-sized print takes a little more explaining.

Aspect Ratio or size

The fly in the ointment when ordering prints is something called Aspect Ratio – this is basically when you order a print that is a different size from the original image.

The best way I can explain it is to imagine trying to fit an A4 birthday card into a square envelope. I don’t need to tell you that it can’t be done… well it could if you cut a bit off the top and bottom of the card.

This is what happens when we have a picture size that is different to the print size selected – the printers cannot fit the picture onto any old size of paper or it will come out distorted, either pulled top to bottom or side to side, so it gets cropped so there is no distortion.

Without getting too technical (I'm not sure I 100% understand it myself) modern cameras take pictures at a 3:4 aspect ratio. It appears that print sizes still favour what was 35mm print film size (a 2:3 aspect ratio) with the old 2:3 being perfect for 6" x 4" prints, meaning that some pictures taken with a 3:4 aspect ratio, risk getting 11% of the image cropped. It appears to be a common thing wherever you choose to get your pictures printed and cropping is a standard thing in almost every lab.

The only way to print photos without cropping is to keep the photos within the correct aspect ratio. If your photographer took the photos in an aspect ratio of 3:2, then you would need to print them in the same ratio (so either 6"x4" or 12"x8"/ 10x15 cm or 20x30 cm). If your photographer took them in 4:3, the correct print size would be 8"x6"/15x20 cm. If you try to print in a different ratio, the photos will get cropped.

Unfortunately, most online print suppliers work with 1,000’s of images per day and there is simply no process for a machine to decide if your fabulous image of Great Aunt Susan should have her feet cropped off or the top of the expensive hat she wore to your wedding, so the default position is usually somewhere in the middle, so you’ll get cropped feet and a cropped hat.

checking for crop of photos

Most online printers (before you send the images off to be printed) will show you where your picture might get cropped and allow you to move the crop lines to the top or bottom or left or right, or they might suggest a different print size, usually larger than your original choice.

Some printers will shrink your image slightly and you will see white areas on any of the four sides of the finished printed product which may or may not show if you had the picture printed for a specific picture frame.


Another thing to consider is the quality of the picture you are getting printed. Have you ever had a picture on your phone and thought it would make a great printed picture, only to have it printed and realise that it is lacking in detail, blurred or out of focus?

The issue here could be the pesky pixel – a word we are all probably familiar with, but no real understanding of exactly what it refers to.

All pictures, all of them are made up of teeny tiny blocks of colour – a pixel. PixelsThe more pixels in a picture, the better quality it will be.

If your printed picture (wherever it is from) has been copied several times, each time it's copied, some of the pixels might be lost – that’s just what happens every time a picture is copied, it simply loses detail. So, what looks great on the small screen of your phone, doesn’t always look so good when it’s made bigger to fit whatever sized print you have selected.

Most online printers will tell you when the quality of the image isn’t great and leave you to decide if you want to go ahead and print it or not. I know that Photobox does this with a little smiley face in green, going to amber and then red unhappy face if the quality is not good enough. It's up to you if you decide to go ahead with a print that is not of great quality, but it helps to know why beforehand and it will manage your expectations of the quality of the print you'll get back.

Some printers give you the option to upload a high-resolution picture or a standard resolution picture. I ordered some prints the other day with Snapfish and was disappointed with how they came out. I complained and they gave me a credit to order some more, but at the end of the conversation, the person I was speaking with suggested I make sure I selected the high-res option when uploading the images, which hadn’t been apparent to me at all. I’m waiting for the pictures to arrive, so I’ll be able to tell if there is any difference between them and the ones uploaded in a standard resolution.

To recap:- to get the best quality prints, always go for a high-res download (assuming your digital images were supplied as high-res), be aware of the limitations of the quality of a printed picture if you are using an image that is of inferior quality and remember that you might need to play around with print sizes or select where your images are cropped before you press the send button to the printer.

If I photograph your wedding, all your pictures will be supplied in high-resolution.

Got any questions - contact me and I'll see if I can help.