do not visit

Photo Sizes: How to Choose the Right Print Size

Whether you’re a seasoned shutterbug with a brimming portfolio or an aperture amateur snapping away with your smartphone camera, sooner or later, you’re likely to have a few ace shots and impactful images you’d like to preserve in physical form.

A basic understanding of photo properties such as size, quality, and aspect ratio can help you maximize the quality of your prints. So read on to learn how to select the correct image size and aspect ratios for everything from small mementos to wall-sized showcase pieces.

Main Takeaways From This Article:

  • Understanding when to use different image sizes is essential for any visual project, from choosing a social media cover photo to creating a customized coffee mug.

  • Choosing the correct aspect ratio plays a vital role in creating impactful images.

  • The best-quality pixel density for printing is 300 pixels per inch.

Basics of Photo Sizes

photo size basics

When printing a photo, it's essential to understand the relationship between photo sizes, aspect ratio, and image quality to make informed decisions about your prints.

Photo Sizes

Standard picture sizes measure anywhere from 4" x 6" to upwards of 20" x 30". When evaluating the correct size for your photo, ensure that it corresponds to the aspect ratio of the original image. Otherwise, the image may become distorted or require cropping.

Remember that the aspect ratio of an image does not limit its size. Small photos, like a Facebook cover photo, utilize a 16:9 aspect ratio. Meanwhile, you might also see a wall-filling print shot in a 1:1 aspect ratio.

Photo Aspect Ratio

A photo’s aspect ratio compares its width to its height. A square image has the same width and height, while rectangular images have a greater width than height.

Understanding the aspect ratio of your image will help you choose the correct printing size and avoid unwanted cropping or stretching of the image. Similarly, if you know you’ll use an image for a specific purpose, such as a cover photo or profile picture, choose the correct dimensions and correct aspect ratio when taking the picture to avoid image editing headaches later on.

There are several standard aspect ratios to consider.

  • The rapid rise of Instagram posts helped repopularize the 1:1 aspect ratio. This square image format is also one of the most common aspect ratio sizes for social media and website profile pictures. No surprise there – the square photos created by a 1:1 aspect ratio work well for close-ups, portraits, and images where the subject fills the frame, helping to focus the viewer's attention directly on the subject. This is usually what a good social media post is all about.

  • The 3:2 aspect ratio mirrors the traditional 35mm film format, so it’s no surprise that most DSLR cameras also use it. Offering a slightly wider field of view than the 4:3 aspect ratio, the 3:2 aspect ratio aligns with 4" x 6" prints and is a popular aspect ratio choice for landscape and portrait photos.

  • Many modern devices utilize a 4:3 aspect ratio for image capture. The balance between width and height gives it a somewhat square shape similar to the 1:1 aspect ratio. Still, it’s a good choice when you want to give nearly equal prominence to the vertical and horizontal elements within your frame. This aspect ratio aligns well with a 8" x 12" photo but may require cropping for a 4" x 6" photo.

  • Thanks to growing smartphone screens, the ‘widescreen’ 16:9 aspect ratio has become the prevailing aspect ratio for digital image capture. However, this aspect ratio doesn’t neatly align with many standard photo sizes, so you may need to crop or adjust your image to make it fit a standard-size print. Despite this, the 16:9 aspect ratio is a popular choice for an image meant for display on modern TV screens, computer monitors, and projectors that support widescreen image sizes.

Photo File Size and Quality

The file size of a digital image usually gives you some clue as to its quality. Put simply, larger image files usually indicate more data and, therefore, detail, in an image. High-resolution images have higher pixel dimensions, which help avoid issues like blurriness and noise from pixelation because they have more pixels to spread out over the print area.

However, it’s important to balance image quality and file size when working with digital images. High-resolution images can quickly consume much of your hard drive space and may result in unnecessary storage costs. Large image files can also affect your site speed if you're running a website. Search engines consider a site's performance when ranking search results, so don't overload your site with big images. Social media sites may also limit the maximum image sizes for upload.

Compressing your images can help you save storage and improve your site's performance, but you may lose some of the original image data, resulting in a lower-quality photo.

How to Choose the Right Photo Print Size

photo print sizes

Whether creating a simple photo gift or building your portfolio as a photographer, your picture sizes will be one of your most important decisions. But navigating common aspect ratio sizes, finding the correct image dimensions, and matching those against image file sizes can often feel overwhelming, even if you have a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish with your image.

To simplify things, we've identified some standard photo sizes and their use cases below, covering everything from pocket-sized keepsakes and t-shirt prints to space-defining statement pieces and framed photos for your gallery wall.

Best Standard Photo Print Sizes

Several standard photo print sizes work well across various projects, from framed photos to building a professional photography portfolio.

  • The venerable 4" x 6" print was the go-to way to share photos with friends decades before Instagram posts were a thing – you might even say it was the original social media! It’s one of the most common photo size choices because it’s easy to store and affordable, making it ideal for filling photo albums with everyday snapshots.

  • A 5" x 7" print showcases its subject with slightly more detail and clarity than a 4" x 6", making it a fine choice for framed photos – especially individual portraits. You’ll often find connected frames that make it possible to showcase two images of the same size side-by-side.

  • 7.8" x 9.8"is a common photo size for framing and displaying family portraits, travel snapshots, or artistic compositions. Photos of this size work well when hung on walls but can also add a nice, personalized touch to a room when used on a tabletop or shelf.

Photo Sizes for Photo Books

You can use a variety of standard photo sizes when building a photo book, making them an excellent idea for budding photographers looking for a professional way to share photos with clients or to display their growing portfolio of photos to family and friends.

There’s not much leeway regarding image size when it comes to photos’ quality; the standard size of a high-quality print image is 300 pixels per inch. However, photo book sizes often align with standard photo sizes for print, which means an image with a 4:3, 3:2, or 1:1 aspect ratio should work well for most cases.

Photos for Posters and Large Wall Art

Image quality and size are crucial to ensuring a sharp, clear result when printing images on oversize items such as posters, banners, or large wall art. A large, high-quality image file with high pixel dimensions gives you more pixels to spread over the print area, reducing the risk of blocky, blurry, or pixelated prints.

Many large wall art pieces are viewed at a distance, which can exaggerate flaws in images of insufficient quality. The extra pixels in large, high-quality image sizes help sharpen and define small details, enhancing the piece's overall appearance regardless of viewing distance.

Best Photo Size for Small Printing

You can follow the same guidelines for printing a custom image on small items as you would with printing an image on flat paper or canvas. Ensure your image has a resolution of 300 pixels per inch to ensure the best quality, and then consider whether it’s appropriate for your print area. Shrinking an image to fit can make it difficult to discern details, while stretching a small image to fit a larger print area can result in pixelation or blurriness.

When printing a custom image on a mug, phone case, or other small items, you must also consider the unique quirks of these items. For example, if you’re printing an image on a phone case, ensure your image will look good in portrait orientation, as that’s how you’re likely to see your case most of the time. You’ll also want to double-check the aspect ratio of the image. Be prepared to crop part of it out if necessary.

Photo Size and Quality for Clothing

Like other custom image print projects, you’ll want to start with a high-quality image with a resolution of at least 300 pixels per inch. The image should also match the print area on the garment. An image that looks good with a center chest placement will likely need cropping to fit on an upper-back placement. Similarly, an image that’s too small may require upscaling, often resulting in a loss of image fidelity.

You’ll also want to ensure the aspect ratio of your image matches the intended print area. For example, the center chest placement can work from a 16:9 aspect ratio to a 1:1 aspect ratio. However, a sleeve print placement may only work with a 1:1 aspect ratio.

When creating custom photo clothing, it’s also important to consider how your image works with your chosen fabric color to ensure the image doesn’t blend into the garment.

Print Your Photos as Posters, on T-Shirts, and More

photos on t-shirts and more

Now that you know some photo basics, you’re ready to start photo printing on Optimalprint. Our website makes it easy to shop and customize a variety of items using your photos. The in-browser editor means you can tweak everything to your heart’s content before you check out.

Step 1: Choose a Product

Your creative journey starts when you select a product to customize using your photos. Choose from greeting cards, photo books, wall art, phone cases, drinkware, and more. You can even customize men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing in various styles and fabric types.

Step 2: Select Size and Design Options

Depending on the item you’ve chosen to customise, you’ll need to make some choices before uploading your photos. For example, custom phone cases require you to choose your brand, model, and case style. Custom photo drinkware requires the user to select the type of container, size, and base color before getting started.

Step 3: Upload High-Quality Photos

Now that you’ve picked your custom photo product and set your options, it’s time to upload your photos. Optimalprint’s user-friendly interface lets you easily upload images for immediate design use. You can upload images by dragging and dropping them from your desktop or browsing your image files.

Step 4: Adjust with the Editor

Use Optimalprint’s web-based editor to move your photos around the canvas. You can also crop, flip, or rotate them. Depending on your customization preferences, you may want to change the repetition pattern from within the editor. You can even see a preview of your item to ensure your image file appears just how you want it.

Step 5: Order Your Product

If everything’s looking good, it’s time to click “Add to Basket” to start your order. If you want to return to your creation later, ensure you’re signed in, then click “Save to Drafts” and pick up your work another time.

Turn Your Photos Into Timeless Memories With Optimalprint

photo prints of many sizes

Whether you’re a professional photographer or a hobbyist, understanding the relationship between photo sizes, aspect ratios, and image quality is vital to producing photos that look great no matter what they’re printed on. It all starts with choosing the correct size and correct dimensions for your high-quality photographs.

Now that you have the basics down, you’re ready to start your creative journey! Countless designs await your unique touch, like an easy-to-make poster you can create in your web browser or on the Optimalprint smartphone app. If wall art isn’t your thing, you can design everything from greeting cards and photo books to clothing and phone cases using custom snapshots from your own photo library.

Create your dream photo project with Optimalprint today!