When it comes to choosing the right photo print size, many people experience a sort of choice paralysis – there are just so many to pick from!
Fortunately, there are a number of standard sizes that will fit the kinds of picture frames you can find on Amazon or your local Walmart.
To help you decide on the best photo print sizes for your old pictures, we’ve prepared this short guide. We’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about printing photos, from “How big can I print my photo?” to “How will I know what will be cropped out when changing sizes?”
And if you’re still confused by the end of this guide, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Image Restoration Center doesn’t just restore old photos! We also offer studio-quality photo printing for all of our restoration clients.
What Is A Standard Photo Size?
There are two general classifications for standard photo print sizes: the ISO standard A Series and the R Series. The former is more commonly used for print collaterals (e.g. brochures, flyers, and calendars), while the latter is best used for printing pictures. Most image labs use the R series, which is what we’ll focus on for the rest of this guide.
At the peak of film photography, 35mm was the most popular choice of film. 35 mm cameras produced negatives with a 3:2 aspect ratio, and R series photo sizes like 4×6 (4R) and 8×12 (S8R) follow this convention. Even when R image sizes don’t follow this, they’re pretty close and only require minimal cropping, such as in the case of 5×7 (5R) and 6×8 (6R).
Even when the digital camera came onto the scene, manufacturers stuck to the 3:2 ratio…and the rest is history.
What Is Aspect Ratio?
According to Shutterstock’s website, aspect ratio is defined as “the proportional relationship of the width to the height” of an image. These ratios are shown as two numbers separated by a colon, like 3:2 or 4:3. Aspect ratios don’t represent a photo’s size in cm or inches but rather the comparison of its thickness and height.
So why does aspect ratio matter when printing images? Like we mentioned, most standard camera viewfinders come in a 3:2 ratio. If you print your images with the same ratio – 4×6 or 8×12 for example – the image will come out “full-frame”. But if you print in 5×7, which has a ratio of 3.5:2.5, your photo will be cropped slightly. The bigger the difference in ratio between the original and the print, the more your image will come out with a slight crop.
As for smartphones, most phone cameras come in 4:3 aspect ratios for wide photos and 1:1 for square format photos for Instagram. For panoramas, 16:9 is the usual ratio.
What Are The Most Popular Standard Photo Print Sizes?
Now that we’ve broken down why photo print sizes are the way they are, let’s look at some of the most popular photo print size options in the R series. Take note that these are measured in inches.
The most popular among standard image sizes, 4R photo prints measure approximately 4 inches wide and 5 ⅞ inches long. For photos taken with 35mm film and developed in a typical photography lab, 4×6 is the standard size offered by most studios.
What is it commonly used for? It is typically used for displaying small photos and artwork.
How big is a 4×6 photo in centimeters? In centimeters, a 4×6 photo print measures 10.2 x 15.2cm.
Like 4×6, 5×7 is one of the most commonly used sizes by photography labs. It’s just a bit bigger than the 4×6 print size measurement, so you can expect some crop.
What is it commonly used for? Like 4×6 photos, 5×7 is used for displaying small photos and artwork on places like desks, nightstands, and small side tables.
How big is a 5×7 photo in centimeters? In centimeters, a 5×7 photo measures 12.7 x 17.8cm.
Also known as 8R, this is one of those photo printing sizes that has a 5:4 ratio, meaning it is 1.25 times as wide as it is tall. Using this size when you print will result in significant cropping from a 3:2 original. This size is also pretty close to the commonly used A4 size, which measures 8.3 x 11.7 inches.
What is it commonly used for? This is great for portraits and artwork prints, as well as smaller posters. This image size is the largest of the “small” sizes. After 8R, the next sizes will be more similarly sized to posters.
How big is an 8×10 photo in centimeters? In centimeters, this size measures 20.3 x 25.4cm.
The 11R photo size is big enough to fit several different photos in one frame, making it perfect for high-quality collages. Think wedding photos, anniversaries, and photos of your kids. No need to buy extra frames too!
What is it commonly used for? Collages, posters, and large art prints.
How big is an 11×14 photo in centimeters? The dimensions of an 11×14 photo in cm are 28 x 36 cm.
The 12×18 print size has a 3:2 ratio, meaning a photo taken with a 35mm camera or a digital camera with a 3:2 viewfinder won’t be cropped when you print.
What is it commonly used for? This size is often used for printing large photo and art prints, posters, and wall decor.
How big is a 12×18 photo in centimeters? In centimeters, a 12×18 photo measures 30x45cm.
This print size has a 5:4 ratio and will crop in a similar way to 8 x 10 photo prints.
What is it commonly used for? Like the 12×18 size, this size is suitable for a large-format photo or art print, posters, and wall decor.
How big is a 16×20 photo in centimeters? A 16×20 photo measures 40x48cm.
Other Popular Photo Print Sizes
Social media, particularly Facebook and Instagram, popularized the square photo form (1:1 ratio.) If you have beautiful and memorable Instagram photos that you think would look great as wall art or home decor for your desk, you can print them as 4×4, 8×8, 10×10, or 12×12 photo sizes – or whatever else your photo lab offers.
This print size is somewhere between a wallet size (2.5×3.5) and a 4×6 picture. Due to its small size, this photo could work as a triptych or tile collage hung above one’s bed or desk.
How big is a 4×4 photo in centimeters? In centimeters, 4×4 photo prints measure 10.16 x 10.16cm.
Close to the 8×10 image size, this size can also work for portraits and artwork prints, as well as smaller posters.
How big is an 8×8 photo in centimeters? In centimeters, an 8×8 image measures 20.32 x 20.32cm.
What To Consider When Choosing Photo Sizes?
With such a wide range of photo sizes to choose from, you may be wondering how to pick out the best size that will do your photo justice. Here are some tips to consider when weighing print sizes:
Measure Your Display Location
When considering photo size, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where are you planning on displaying your prints? Will it be on a shelf, above your headboard, as a mantelpiece, or in a frame on a gallery wall?
- What are the measurements of your chosen spot?
- Will there be space for other photos, prints, or decor, too?
- What are the properties of your desired location? The quality of light is also important when it comes to choosing a display area!
Aside from location, you have to think of your desired orientation too – do you want it displayed in portrait or landscape mode? It’s not just a matter of personal preference, as it should be relevant to your desired location, too. A portrait photo will look good in a narrow space, while a landscape photo will fill up a wider space more nicely, such as over a sofa or a bed.
Keep The Viewer In Mind
When deciding on the size of your photo, you need to keep the viewer in mind. Will your chosen size allow the viewer to absorb the subject of the photo well enough? Close-ups, macro photography, and portraits all work well as smaller photos, while wide, open landscapes work best in larger formats.
Don't Forget The Original Photo’s Ratio
We briefly talked about this above, but it bears repeating – print size and ratio go hand-in-hand. Remember, if you print using a significantly different ratio to that of the original photo, you could risk the quality of your photo by cutting out important details and ruining the composition that the photographer worked hard to achieve.
How can you check a photo’s ratio? You can look at the details of your photo in your camera or on your computer, and check the pixel dimensions.
Learn About Image Resolution Requirements
Print resolution refers to the amount of detail in a printed image, measured in dots per inch or DPI. Essentially, the higher the image resolution, the more detail an image will have – and thus will be easier to blow up as a large print.
If all this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same principle used in television screens. A high-definition TV has higher image resolution than a standard definition one, producing more detailed and “realistic” images on the screen.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best to take photos in a higher image resolution, as it’s easier to scale up than down. You want your photos to have a resolution of at least 300 DPI before printing.
Side note: When talking about resolutions, there are two terms: DPI and PPI. Print resolution is measured in DPI, whereas digital images viewed in a computer are measured in pixels per inch or PPI.
How Big Can I Print My Photo?
Is there a limit to how big you can print your photos? There are several factors to consider before blowing up your photos:
- Photo data: This is where your knowledge in pixels, pixel dimensions, and pixels-per-inch comes in. This refers to the approximate amount of megapixels required for each image size. This can be computed by multiplying the image’s dimensions by 300 DPI (the “golden” resolution). For a 4×6 photo, you get 1200×1800 pixels. Then, multiply these two numbers to each other – this gives you the estimated megapixels.
- Print material and print quality: Do you want a smooth and glossy look or a textured finish for your prints? Textured materials can “hide” imperfections and trick the eye. For a smooth and high-quality look, go for quality photo paper. If you want to get away with a lower resolution image at a large size, print on a rougher material like stationary paper.
- Printer: If you’re printing your images at home, bear in mind the sizing limitations of your home printer. Most home printers can only print up to legal (8.5 x 14 inches) or letter (8.5 x 11 inches) sizes, but there are some printers that support up to supertabloid (13×19 inches).
- Viewing distance: Will the prints be displayed on a wall or your desk? The viewing distance matters because you’ll naturally notice more pixels the closer you are to the photo. This is especially important for preserving the quality of larger images!
- Frame size: The availability of picture frame sizes in your area matters, too – especially if you want to frame a picture to prevent it from fading and collecting grime. Make sure you can get your hands on frames that will match the measurement of your images. Most printing labs and frame shops have a sizing chart for this kind of thing. Of course, there are custom framers who offer a variety of frames, but they’re more expensive.
Stop Wasting Your Time Figuring Out Measurements And Photo Print Sizes!
When you find an old photo of a friend, loved one, or beloved place, it can bring back a lot of joy and precious memories. Printing photos and displaying them in your home is a great way to preserve those memories and have something to look back on from time to time.
But choosing the right size can be tricky and time-consuming, and figuring out your best printing options and tools can be a real headache if you don’t have the experience to back it up. Plus, if you need to make adjustments to your photo, you’ll need to edit the file using a photo editing software or website too!
Take the stress out of printing your images – leave them to us! If you have photo restoration work done with us, we’ll handle the printing for you, no matter the size. So, if you need help deciding on what photo print sizes would work best for you, just fill out the contact form on our website and let the experts take it from here.