Aspect ratio, all you need to know about it

Imagine a world where every image and video had the same shape—it would be a visually monotonous landscape. Fortunately, we live in a diverse visual realm where aspect ratios bring uniqueness to every frame. Aspect ratios determine the width and height proportions of an image or video, and they are a fundamental part of visual storytelling. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll embark on a journey to demystify aspect ratios.

From understanding what they are and exploring the most popular formats to discussing why selecting the right aspect ratio matters and how it impacts various creative fields, including videography. Plus, we’ll dive into the practical aspects of changing aspect ratios, equipping you with the knowledge to navigate visual media with confidence.

What is an aspect ratio?

What is an aspect ratio?

Aspect ratio is a fundamental concept in visual media that defines the proportional relationship between an image or video’s width and height. It’s expressed as a ratio, typically in the form of two numbers separated by a colon (e.g., 16:9). These numbers represent how many units wide and how many units tall an image or video is. The aspect ratio plays a pivotal role in determining the visual format and overall composition of a piece of media.

To better understand aspect ratios, let’s explore a few common examples:

  • 16:9 aspect ratio: This is the standard aspect ratio for widescreen and it is used in most modern televisions, computer monitors, and online video platforms like YouTube. It’s known for its wider frame, making it ideal for cinematic experiences and multimedia content.
  • 4:3 aspect ratio: This aspect ratio was once the standard for older television screens and early computer monitors. It has a squarer frame, which works well for presentations and some types of photography.
  • 1:1 aspect ratio: Is one of the best aspect ratios for Instagram. This square aspect ratio is popular for sharing photos and visuals where equal emphasis is placed on width and height.
  • 2.35:1 aspect ratio: Widely used in filmmaking, this ultrawide aspect ratio creates a cinematic, panoramic effect. It’s frequently seen in epic movies to capture sweeping landscapes and dramatic scenes.
  • 9:16 aspect ratio: Reversed from the 16:9 ratio, this vertical format is commonly used in mobile devices for portrait-oriented videos and social media stories.

Understanding aspect ratios is vital because they significantly influence how visual content is perceived. Different ratios convey distinct emotions and serve various artistic purposes. While standard aspect ratios like 16:9 and 4:3 are commonly used in filmmaking, atypical ratios can provide unique cinematic experiences that challenge traditional norms.

For instance, Oppenheimer, a groundbreaking film directed by Christopher Nolan, defied convention by employing atypical aspect ratios of 2.20:1 and 1.43:1. This ambitious project was shot on IMAX cameras, pushing the boundaries of visual storytelling. The 2.20:1 ratio creates a panoramic canvas, ideal for capturing sweeping landscapes and epic vistas, immersing the audience in a grand cinematic spectacle.

On the other hand, the 1.43:1 ratio offers an even taller and more immersive frame, enhancing the sense of scale and presence. These unconventional choices in aspect ratios demonstrate how filmmakers can leverage visual composition to evoke emotions, transport viewers, and create unforgettable cinematic experiences.

Choosing the right aspect ratio for your project ensures that your message is conveyed effectively and resonates with your audience, whether through the tried-and-true or the boldly innovative.

What are the popular aspect ratio formats?

When it comes to aspect ratios, various formats cater to different media and platforms, each with its unique characteristics. Let’s explore some of the most commonly encountered aspect ratios:

Instagram aspect ratio

Instagram aspect ratio

Instagram, the popular social media platform for sharing photos and videos, primarily uses two aspect ratios:

  • 1:1 (Square): This square format is known for its balanced dimensions and is ideal for single images or collages.
  • 4:5 (Portrait): This slightly taller format is often used for vertical images and allows for more content in the frame, making it suitable for portrait photography.

You can also check this post entitled Instagram size, the best dimensions guide for IG to learn more about aspect ratios and dimensions.

TikTok aspect ratio

TikTok aspect ratio

TikTok, the fast-paced video-sharing platform, prefers videos in a vertical format with an aspect ratio of 9:16. This ratio optimizes the viewing experience on mobile devices, where most TikTok content is consumed.

YouTube aspect ratio

YouTube aspect ratio

YouTube, the largest video-sharing platform, accommodates a range of aspect ratios. The most common is 16:9, which provides a widescreen cinematic experience. However, YouTube also supports other ratios like 4:3 and 21:9 for different viewing preferences.

iPhone Aspect Ratio

iPhone Aspect Ratio

Apple’s iPhone lineup often captures photos and videos in the 4:3 aspect ratio. This versatile format is well-suited for various applications and allows for easy cropping or resizing.

Aspect ratio for widescreen

Aspect ratio for widescreen

Widescreen displays and content often use the 16:9 aspect ratio. It’s the standard for most modern TVs, computer monitors, and online video platforms, providing a cinematic feel to visuals.

As you explore these popular aspect ratios, you’ll find they hold the key to shaping your creative vision in diverse ways. Each ratio brings its own unique flavor to visual storytelling and presentation.

Which aspect ratio is the best?

Selecting the right aspect ratio for your visual content is more than just a technical decision; it’s a creative choice that should resonate with your unique vision and narrative. Here, versatility and creative exploration are encouraged, as experimenting can lead to captivating and unexpected results. To choose the best aspect ratio for your project, there are a few things to take into consideration.

Crafting your story: Evoke emotions with aspect ratios

Your choice of aspect ratio should harmonize with the story you want to tell. Are you capturing a breathtaking landscape, crafting an intimate portrait, or producing a cinematic masterpiece? Each aspect ratio can evoke specific emotions and enhance storytelling:

  • 1:1 (Square): Ideal for creating a sense of balance and symmetry, this format can work wonders for showcasing detailed subjects like product photography or architectural designs.
  • 16:9 (Widescreen): Embraced by filmmakers, this ratio offers a cinematic experience, making it perfect for storytelling where a wide frame can capture grand landscapes and dramatic scenes.
  • 9:16 (Vertical): For mobile-driven platforms like TikTok and Instagram Stories, this format maximizes screen real estate, engaging viewers with an immersive, vertical journey.

Platform and audience: Tailoring for engagement

Consider where your content will be showcased. Different platforms and audiences may favor specific ratios. For example, when it comes to the best aspect ratio for Instagram, the square (1:1) and vertical (4:5 or 9:16) formats often reign supreme for optimized viewing on the platform. Tailor your choice to meet your audience’s expectations.

Versatility and adaptability

Think about how your visuals might be used across different mediums. A versatile aspect ratio allows your content to shine across various platforms and applications.

Creative exploration

Don’t be afraid to experiment. Art often thrives on pushing boundaries. Trying different aspect ratios can lead to unexpected and captivating results.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the “best” aspect ratio. It’s about aligning your choice with your creative vision and goals. In addition to aspect ratios, consider exploring the timeless concept of the golden ratio, which has inspired artists and designers throughout history. To learn more about its impact on visual aesthetics, check out our post on the golden ratio in graphic design.

Why is aspect ratio important?

Aspect ratio is the storyteller’s canvas in the visual arena, influencing how your story is composed, perceived, and shared. Here’s why it matters:

  • Composition and framing: Aspect ratio shapes your composition, guiding how viewers perceive your visuals.
  • Emotion and impact: Different ratios evoke unique emotions, allowing you to tailor your storytelling.
  • Platform compatibility: Understanding platform preferences ensures your content shines where it’s shared.
  • Storytelling flexibility: Choose the right ratio to adapt your storytelling to various mediums and messages.
  • Viewer perception: Your aspect ratio directs attention, sets moods, and guides the viewer’s journey.
  • Aesthetic consistency: Consistent ratios create a professional and cohesive visual identity.

Mastering aspect ratios enhances the impact of your creative projects.

Aspect ratios for videos

Aspect ratios are the silent architects of visual storytelling. Each ratio offers a unique canvas upon which narratives unfold, shaping the viewer’s experience. In this section, we delve into the key aspect ratios for videos, each with its distinctive characteristics and applications.

16:9 (Widescreen)

Aspect Ratio 16:9

16:9, often referred to as widescreen, is the standard aspect ratio for most modern video content. It provides a cinematic feel and is widely used in filmmaking, television, and online video platforms like YouTube. The wide frame allows for capturing grand landscapes and creating immersive storytelling experiences.

4:3 (Standard)

Aspect Ratio 4:3

4:3, the traditional aspect ratio of older television screens, is less common in contemporary video production but is still used in specific contexts. It’s associated with a squarer frame and can evoke a sense of nostalgia. Some content creators intentionally use this ratio for its unique aesthetic.

1:1 (Square)

Aspect Ratio 1:1

1:1, a square aspect ratio, is popular for short-form videos on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Its balanced dimensions create a unique viewing experience, making it ideal for quick and engaging content.

9:16 (Vertical)

Aspect Ratio 9:16

9:16, a vertical aspect ratio, is tailored for mobile devices and is commonly used in platforms like Instagram Stories and TikTok. It maximizes screen space, offering an immersive experience for mobile users.

21:9 (Ultrawide)

Aspect Ratio 21:9

21:9, an ultrawide aspect ratio, is used in some filmmaking and gaming contexts. It provides an expansive, panoramic view that enhances the visual impact of certain content, especially in genres like action and adventure.

Custom ratios

Depending on your creative vision, you can also opt for custom aspect ratios to achieve specific visual effects or storytelling goals. Custom ratios offer the flexibility to craft unique viewing experiences—as in the case of standard poster size. Freepik videos provides a valuable addition to this creative toolkit.

With three distinct aspect ratios for videos—16:9, 9:16, and 256:135— at your disposal, you have the power to fine-tune your visual storytelling precisely. Moreover, Freepik offers an intuitive filter that allows you to seamlessly switch between these aspect ratios, giving you the freedom to adapt your content effortlessly.

The choice of aspect ratio in video production significantly influences how your narrative unfolds and how viewers engage with your content. In the following section, we’ll explore how to change aspect ratios and adapt your videos to different formats.

How to change an aspect ratio?

Changing the aspect ratio of your visuals is a practical skill that allows you to adapt your content for different platforms or artistic purposes. Here are the methods for achieving precise aspect ratio adjustments:

Video editing software

Professional video editing software, like Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve, provides comprehensive tools for aspect ratio modification. You can resize, crop, or export your videos to specific ratios, ensuring your content aligns perfectly with your vision.

Online video editors

Online video editors such as Kapwing and Clipchamp offer user-friendly interfaces for quick aspect ratio adjustments. These web-based tools are convenient for resizing and cropping videos, and they’re accessible from any device with an internet connection.

Social media platforms

Many social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, provide built-in tools for aspect ratio adjustments when uploading videos. They often offer guidance on the optimal ratios for different formats, simplifying the process for content creators.

Aspect ratio for Midjourney

When working with artistic visuals and aiming for fidelity, particularly within Midjourney on Discord, you can use prompts to change the aspect ratio. Midjourney excels in maintaining the artistic style while seamlessly transitioning between different ratios, offering flexibility and precision.

So if you want to know how to change the aspect ratio of an image, you need to provide specific prompts that instruct the tool to create visuals in the desired ratio. This allows you to experiment with various ratios and achieve your artistic vision effortlessly.

Custom solutions

For unique projects or specific aspect ratio requirements, custom solutions may be necessary. This could involve coding or utilizing specialized software tools tailored to your creative needs.

By mastering the art of changing aspect ratios through these methods, you gain precise control over your visual content. This ensures your visuals are not only captivating but also perfectly aligned with the platforms and mediums you intend to share them on.

Aspect ratios are the architects of visual storytelling, influencing how we perceive images and videos. They evoke emotions, engage audiences, and impact platform compatibility. The key is to align your choice with your creative vision and audience. In video production, various ratios offer unique storytelling canvases.

You can adapt ratios using tools like video editors or Midjourney’s prompts. Mastering aspect ratios grants control over your content, ensuring it resonates across platforms and mediums, unlocking the creative potential to tell impactful visual stories.