Harness the Creative Power of Aspect Ratio in Photography

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Great photographers usually have a style, almost like a visual signature, that gives their images a distinctive feel. One of the joys of photography is defining and refining a style of your own and one great way to do that is to experiment with FUJIFILM GFX 50S aspect ratios.

Changing the height and width of your images can have a surprising effect on their visual and emotional impact. Some of the aspect ratios available on the FUJIFILM GFX 50S are better suited to portrait photography and others feel like a good fit for landscapes, but you may find that using an unexpected or mismatched format gives you interesting results that you would never have otherwise thought of. Let’s take a look at what is available.

GFX 50S and Multi-Aspect Photography

The FUJIFILM GFX 50S camera has a 51.4 megapixel, medium format sensor measuring 43.8 x 32.9mm. This results in images which are 8256 x 6192 pixels. That’s 1.7x larger than images from 35mm or full frame camera. The sensor allows you to shoot in a variety of aspect ratios, giving you the freedom to experiment with different styles. And because the images produced are so large, you will have plenty of resolution to work with no matter which aspect ratio you choose.

Norway Photography by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky
4 by 3 Aspect Ratio shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky

Aspect Ratios

4:3

This is the native aspect ratio when shooting photographs with the GFX 50S. If this aspect ratio feels familiar to you, that could be because this used to be the most common aspect ratio for TVs and computer monitors. Nowadays, however, computers are often used for editing videos and watching movies, which means that wider formats such as 16:9 have become more common.

4:3 is slightly taller and less wide than the other common aspect ratio for photography, which is 3:2.

3:2

This is the aspect ratio used by many 35mm format cameras. The sensor is 1.5x as wide as it is high, so it is noticeably wider and more panoramic than 4:3, but less wide than most video formats. Most of us are used to seeing images in 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratios, so they tend to feel familiar and ‘photographic’ to us.

3 by 2 Aspect Ratio shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky
1 to 1 Aspect Ratio shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky

1:1

For a generation that grew up surrounded by social media, there is every possibility that photography in this square format could feel even more familiar than 4:3 and 3:2! Frequently used online in social media feeds and for profile images, the 1:1 square shot can be good for portraits, and easy to compose with.

A square frame can simplify creative choices, because it means you do not have to worry about whether to use portrait or landscape orientation. When you shoot a square image with the FUJIFILM GFX 50S there is plenty of scope for cropping your shot later. That is because the medium format sensor produces images that are far larger than a standard DSLR or mirrorless camera.

The inherent symmetry of the frame can be used to emphasize a formal composition, such as one involving abstract shapes and colors; a single, central vanishing point; or symmetrical lead-in lines.

5:4

This aspect ratio is less wide and slightly more square than 4:3. Although it might seem a little narrow to modern eyes, 5:4 use to be a very common size for prints, which were often 4 x 5 inches or 8 x 10 inches. For those who like to make prints, shooting in this format means that your image will fit into a standard print size, so there is no need to crop anything.

5 by 4 Aspect Ratio shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky
7 by 6 Aspect Ratio shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky

7:6

This aspect ratio is even more square than the 5:4 format above. Both the 7:6 and 5:4 aspect ratios were popular with medium format film photographers who were interested in shooting landscape images. Some photographers favored this aspect ratio for landscape photography as it was straightforward to print and the narrower frame made it easier to fill effectively, whereas a wider frame could result in ‘empty’ or underutilized space.

To those of us accustomed to looking at wide screen, 16:9 monitors and even wider movies (2.39:1), this format may seem to be a fairly narrow, square aspect ratio. However, you will notice that if you shoot in portrait orientation, the 4:5 and 6:7 aspect ratios look natural, whereas 16:9 and 3:2 begin to look a little elongated.

An Example of the 2:3 Aspect Ratio, Courtesy of FUJIFILM X/GFX
An Example of the 4:5 Aspect Ratio, Courtesy of FUJIFILM X/GFX
An Example of the 6:7 Aspect Ratio, Courtesy of FUJIFILM X/GFX

16:9

This aspect ratio is often known as wide-screen, because it is the format used for many TVs, computer monitors and television dramas. As such it gives your shots a cool, filmic look which can immediately infuse them with a sense of drama and intrigue. If you are shooting portrait images, the wide frame also allows you to include plenty of the environment, which can give your image some context and help to tell a story.

16 by 9 Aspect Ratio shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky
A 65:24 aspect ratio image of Norway, shot on a FUJIFILM GFX 50S by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky

65:24

This is a panoramic, super-wide aspect ratio that is great for creating stunning vistas that seem to stretch on for miles.

Although it was designed for panoramic photography, it can be used for highly stylized portraiture too. The reason for this is that 65:24 is similar to the anamorphic wide-screen format used in cinema, which is 2.39:1.

An overlay showing 2.39:1 cinema aspect ratio over an image at 65:24 shot by FUJIFILM X-Photographer Ken Kaminesky

Think outside the box

Now you have seen some of the effects that can be created with aspect ratio, it is time to give it a try yourself. While it is possible to crop your images during post-production, why not experiment with setting your aspect ratio in camera? It will make you more conscious of how much of the frame you need to fill and might just help you to become a more rounded and disciplined photographer.

Images by Ken Kaminesky, a compensated  FUJIFILM X-Photographer

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