"Why doesn't my print look right?" answered!

One of the biggest complaints I get from friends, clients, and customers at the lab is “my pictures don’t look like that on the screen”. There are multiple reasons for this most common...1. they have attempted to edit the photo on a screen that is far from properly calibrated and therefore the colours are off or 2. (and more common) They don’t understand print sizes. And lately, it’s been mostly the second one. For this reason I am dedicating this entire post to discussing print sizes and the things to keep in mind when you order prints. Let’s begin with the most common sizes most consumers are faced with at any commercial printing location from your local professional lab to the big box store prints kiosks include

• 4”x6”

• 5”x7”

• 8”x10”

Many people do not understand the size and format in which their camera takes photos. Oh, I bet you can tell me the mega pixels of your camera or some similar feature you were told about when you bought it but can you tell me what size the photo would be when you print the whole thing out? Don’t worry about digging up your cameras manual right now, just understand that the average photo coming out of it will have some part of the photo cropped out when you go to print a photo. It may be a small amount off the top and bottom, it may be a little off both sides, but depending on the size of your print you can print the same photo and get slightly different result. I’m going to work through this both visually and mathematically so that you can understand how to get the best results.

This image shows different colour boxes to demonstrate the different print sizes.


Below is an example of a full size image with the coloured box indicating the size of each print.

4”x6” Prints

This is what many of us think of as a standard photo. It has been the standard photo size for years and is available at all locations.


5”7” Prints

Many people mistakenly believe that because this print is one inch longer and one inch wider than the standard print that it is going to include the same portion of the photo however it is actually 25% taller at 5” tall and only 17% longer at 7” wide. The percentages demonstrate the difference in the expansion giving us a rectangle but it’s not the same proportions.


8”x10” Prints

This is the most common enlargement hanging on every families wall (or sitting on the mantel etc). Compare this print to the standard and you are looking at a print that is both 4 inches taller and 4 inches wider, sounds great right? It should all work the same right? Okay, you guys are getting the idea...no it’s not going to work out the same, and why is that? Well the 8”x10” print is actually 100% taller and 67% wider than the original print.


I hope after reading this post you will better understand photo sizes and get years more enjoyment out of your own photos when you print them right the first time!