I noticed that in some local magazines and even websites the photos sometimes look stretched or squashed. Why does this happen? How to fix it?
— J. N., Thimphu
Dear J. N.,
Let’s bite our teeth into the issue: each photo has a certain aspect ratio, which is the ratio of the width of the photo to its height. Sounds complicated? Not really. For example, a 4”x6” photo of cute puppies has an aspect ratio of 4” divided by 6”, or 2:3 (two-thirds). Computer images also have aspect ratios. A photo which is 1024 pixels (or dots) wide, and 768 pixels high, has an aspect ratio of 1024 divided by 768, or 4:3. A perfectly-square image has an aspect ratio of 1:1, since the height and the width are equal. CD covers, by the way, are square images.
Why do you see these distorted images in some publications? The distortion happens when a photo’s aspect ratio is changed. The graphic editor decided to increase (or decrease) the width or height of the photo, but without a corresponding change in the other dimension. Here’s an example: say that you want to design a beautiful CD cover (remember, it’s a square) using a stunning landscape photo taken with a digital camera – one in which the width is larger than the height. You open the photo in a photo-editing software, such as Photoshop, Picasa, or Microsoft Office Picture Manager, and start decreasing the width until the photo is a perfect square. Notice that while decreasing the width, you did not change the height at all. The photo can now fit nicely as a CD cover, but you have squashed the image and it doesn't look very professional.
In order to avoid a distorted photo, never resize only the width or only the height. You should resize them together. Some software packages allow you to lock the aspect ratio of a photo when resizing; you will want to use that option. And if the photo does not fit exactly into the space allocated for it - the trick it to crop (remove) unnecessary parts until it fits.
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