Sizing for Print


Today’s Question: I don’t print my own enlargements and instead send them to a lab. My question: I often crop to an odd size since I crop for the image rather than the print ratio. I want to print the image on a standard size paper that is provided by the lab. How do I get that image to a standard paper size to send it to the lab? I assume I will get uneven white borders.

Tim’s Quick Answer: When preparing a cropped image to be printed by a print service, you can simply resize that image to fit within the printable area of the paper size that will be used for printing. For example, you could resize a cropped image to dimensions of 5″x9″ to fit onto a sheet of 8.5″x11″ paper.

More Detail: My own preference is to crop photos based on my aesthetic sense of the image, not based on what size paper I might print to later. That will lead to an uneven white border on the printed page, but that can be managed by custom matting and framing the print. You could also trim the print to have an uneven border (or no border at all) depending on how you’ll share the final print.

It is a good idea to find out about the printable area for the paper size your photo will be printing to, whether you’re printing yourself or having the photo printed by a lab. You can then resize the image to fit within that printable area.

Of course, you’ll want to pay attention to both the width and height of the image, to make sure the image will fit into the printable area of the paper the image will be printed to. If you’re using Lightroom Classic, this is quite easy to do thanks to the “Resize to Fit” option in the Export dialog. When exporting you can turn on the “Resize to Fit” checkbox, and then choose “Width & Height” from the popup. Enter the dimensions of the printable area of the paper the image will be printed to, and Lightroom Classic will resize the image appropriately when you export it.

In Photoshop you can use the Fit Image command for a similar purpose, though you’ll need to calculate the output size in pixels since that is the only unit of measure in the Fit Image dialog. For example, let’s assume a 11″x17″ printable area with a print resolution of 360 pixels per inch. That calculates to 3,960×6,120 pixels. In Photoshop you can then choose File > Automate > Fit Image from the menu. In the dialog that appears enter your calculated pixel dimensions and click OK. The image will be sized to fit within those dimensions, without stretching the image in either dimension.

The point is that you can simply resize the image to fit within the printable dimensions and send that image to the printer. Even without adding white space to the image to make it match the exact aspect ratio of the paper size, the image can then be printed to fit on the paper size without stretching the actual image.