What resolution and aspect ratio of photos to choose in the camera settings

Modern digital cameras and mobile phones allow you to take a photo at the touch of a button. This is very different from how they photographed thirty or forty years ago. All these focus, exposure, ISO settings are hidden in the Pro mode of the camera. And few people use these professional settings – and, by the way, others miss a lot, because the ability to use them allows you to take the right photo in situations where image processing algorithms spoil everything. For example, sometimes it is not easy with automatic settings to take a photo with the atmosphere of twilight (the algorithms make the picture too bright, almost like during the day). Sunsets are another example: automatic algorithms are reluctant to accept that a photograph should contain such an abundance of warm colors and be quite dark at the same time. In both cases described, the situation is quite easy to fix with the settings for ISO sensitivity (ISO) and image temperature. But this post is not about that.

Modern cameras have become so advanced that they have no less settings than the professional mode mentioned earlier. The concept of “press a button to get a photo” still holds true. But before you press a button, you need to select a few important settings in order to get the most out of subsequent button presses.

In this note, we will consider just one, but quite important setting: what image resolution to choose.

It would seem that everything is quite simple. But in fact, camera settings have counterintuitive names. In this case, the choice of resolution (or aspect ratio) greatly affects the amount of information that enters the frame. You'll be surprised how much your photos get overlooked and missed if you choose the wrong resolution.

How to change the camera resolution on your phone

The resolution of photos (that is, their size in pixels) is one of the most important settings, and usually access to choosing the size of photos is on the main screen of the camera in viewfinder mode.

Depending on the already selected resolution, the icon may be as follows:

  • Full
  • 1:1
  • 16:9
  • 4:3
  • 4:3 (108 MP) – the number of pixels may be different

Specific designations and numbers may vary depending on your phone model.

If you don't see the resolution settings on the main screen of the camera, then look for the choice of photo size in the settings, to do this, open the camera and click on the gear icon.

Camera resolution and photo aspect ratio

Intuitively it seems that if a phone advertisement promises a 108 MP or 12 MP camera, then all photos should be of this size. This is wrong.

You will get the maximum image resolution when choosing one of the aspect ratios, usually 4:3. As for other aspect ratios, they are all obtained by cropping the original 4:3 photo to the selected aspect ratio. As a result, part of the information from the cut out areas is lost.

Examples of photos with different aspect ratios and different pixel sizes

All of the photos below were purposely taken at different resolutions and aspect ratios so you can visualize the difference.

Clicking on the photo will download the full photo without compression.

Aspect Ratio 4:3

The most complete frame, including the maximum amount of information.

For a 12 megapixel sensor on one of my phone's cameras, the resolution is 4000×3000 when the aspect ratio is 4:3.

File size: 4.9 megabytes.

Aspect Ratio 16:9

Popular aspect ratio among monitors. A photo with this size may perfectly fit the size of the monitor when viewed in full screen mode.

But in pixels, the size is 4000×2252, which is about 9 megapixels. To achieve this size, a 16:9 aspect ratio photo was taken and cropped at the top and bottom.

Note that the shot is quite heavily cropped (cropped) to achieve this aspect ratio.

That is, by choosing an aspect ratio of 16:9, you do not get additional space on the sides of the frame; instead, stripes are cut off from the top and bottom of the image.

File size: 3.5 megabytes.

Full size

Along with other aspect ratios, the “Full” option is available in the list.

What do you think of this setting? I was sure that it refers to the maximum size that the camera can capture. But in fact, the frame size turned out to be 4000×1800, that is, about 7 megapixels. That is, the frame was further reduced from above and below.

You can also notice above how differently the artificial flower looks in the viewfinder in the photos above when the aspect ratio is set to 4:3 and Full mode.

As you might expect, the word Full refers to the full use of the screen as a viewfinder, while the pictures are also adjusted to the aspect ratio of the phone's screen.

File size: 3.4 megabytes.

Aspect Ratio 1:1

Selecting an aspect ratio of 1:1 will take square photos with a resolution of 2992×2992, that is, 9 megapixels.

To obtain this resolution, the original 4:3 photo (resolution 4000×3000) is taken and stripes are cut off from its sides.

File size: 3.4 megabytes.

Aspect ratio 4:3 (108 MP)

The number in brackets means the number of megapixels and may differ for your phone.

This mode uses a camera with a maximum resolution of 108 MP, the size of the photo in pixels is 12000×9000.

A feature of this mode on my phone is that it is impossible to zoom the photo. It is also not possible to select the wide-angle option because a different camera is used for wide-angle shooting.

File size: 24.3 megabytes.

What image resolution and aspect ratio to choose in the camera settings

I would recommend choosing a resolution of 4:3, since you will get the fullest frame size, which you can crop to any of the listed aspect ratios if you wish.

The 16:9 aspect ratio seems to be the most suitable for monitors and phones as it takes up the full screen. You may prefer this option, just remember that this is a slightly cropped shot compared to 4:3.

Other aspect ratios (1:1 and “Full”) for those who really understand why this is needed. In them, the picture is cropped too much.

If your camera application allows you to set the resolution in specific values (rather than just choosing an aspect ratio), then I would recommend choosing values of 10 megapixels or higher (multiply the width by the height). Remember that the resolution of a photo greatly affects its quality, and at low resolution it is simply impossible to get photos that would be nice to view on modern monitors or phones.

Do I need to choose the maximum resolution of photos

Photos with an aspect ratio of 4:3 (108 MP) and 4:3 seem to be the same. The point is that you are viewing them on a monitor with a resolution of approximately 2-8 megapixels (this ranges from Full HD to 4K. And even a smaller photo with a 4:3 ratio has a resolution of 12 megapixels.

That is, if you take pictures to view pictures on a monitor or TV screen, then a moderate resolution around 12 megapixels is enough for you.

But the situation changes if you plan to print pictures or view them at high magnification.

Here is a 12 megapixel shot at high magnification. Pixels are clearly visible, some leaves began to look very strange.

And this is a 108 megapixel shot at exactly the same magnification. Zooming is felt, but everything is not as bad as in the previous picture.

A similar increase in the image at 12 megapixels. The picture looks more like a frame from the game, individual pixels are clearly visible.

Enlargement of the picture by 108 megapixels.

That is, if you want to further crop photos, enlarge and use their areas as separate pictures, or print pictures, then you will need the maximum resolution.

Why not take all the photos in maximum resolution then?

The answer is very simple – they take up too much space. The same number of photos with a resolution of 12 megapixels and 108 megapixels will take you several times longer to copy from your phone to your computer.

Large pictures require more computer resources for processing, and even when viewing photos, they open a little slower.

What size photos to choose if they are taken for social networks

The pictures you upload to social networks will be highly compressed. That is, there is definitely no point in taking photos larger than 10 megapixels if its only purpose is to be uploaded to a social network.

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