Widescreen Is a Pain for Photos


Widescreen is all the rage when it comes to TV, and for good reason: Most movies, and now many TV shows, are shot to fit on a screen that is much wider than it is tall. But not most photos. So I'm frustrated with a recent purchase, an electronic frame for displaying digital photos, which forces me to dramatically crop my pics for its stretched screen.

Wacky dimensions have always frustrated photographers, even in the days when we all shot film. It was natural and easy to get a 4-by-6-inch print from a 35-mm negative, which was 1.5 times as wide as it was tall (or on a ratio of 3:2). But the same ratio didn't hold when you moved up to a 5-by-7 print or 8 by 10, which forced some cropping to make the photo fit on those larger sizes, whose reasons for being fade hazily into the history of photography.

But nothing demanded the kind of radical resizing that's required by a widescreen frame, which is typically on a ratio of 16:9. It makes a lot of photos that I'd framed on the camera look downright silly, cutting out legs and adding extraneous stuff on either side.

Digital had already complicated things, as most compact digital cams–including our Canon—shoot at a 4:3 ratio. So even getting a simple 4-by-6 print meant having to do some cropping.

I could start shooting my photos in widescreen, which is an option on our Canon camera, to fit my electronic frame—and widescreen TV, for that matter. But then they wouldn't fit nicely on other TVs or computer screens, including those owned by my kids' grandparents. And they'd be a pain to print.

No, I think this widescreen frame is going back to the store. Some manufacturers of electronic frames are starting to make them in a 4:3 format, which would mean no cropping for our digital photos. They would just fit. Imagine that.