With digital photography and point-and-click editing tools, it seems the concept of a fixed or standard aspect ratio is going extinct. If necessary, you can crop till you get to a composition you find most pleasing, resize for the web (or print), and be done with it.
Of course on a blog, the width is constrained—in my case to a svelte 380 pixels (400–450 is more standard)—so I usually just resize the photo to that maximum width and don’t pay attention to the height. At some point I decided the native aspect ratio of my shots was a little boring and too square, so I started cropping to the golden ratio (cause why not?). I works especially well on landscapes, emphasizing that horizontal perspective.
Just recently I noticed a few of the first photos I included in my blog were slightly less than my standard width, so I went back to the originals, taken with a two megapixal Kodak DC3400, and resized them. Immediately their height caught my eye. It wasn’t the 285 pixels I’d grown accustomed to, it was only 253.
Turns out the sensor on my first digital camera actually had a aspect ratio of 1.5:1, the same as 35mm and digital SLR photography. Whereas the sensor on my Canon SD400, and I’m guessing almost every other point and shoot out there, is a squarer 1.3:1. I’m curious at what point that switch happened, and why. I assume a squarer image is more amenable to cropping and printing, but by itself makes for a less arresting composition.
Here’s a diagram that contrasts the difference in a square context:
I’m curious if anyone’s done any studies or analysis on the aspect ratio of photos by famous photographers (or painters for that matter). Did Ansel Adams crop his shots with the kind of abandon we now crop in GIMP or Photoshop? Or did he limit himself to a few standard or idiosyncratic aspect ratios?
Does anyone else out there think about this kind of stuff?