top of page

Thinking inside the box

One consideration always running through a sailing photographers head while shooting is… How can this shot be used? Where? and for what purpose? (we don’t have to wonder why.... If it’s a brilliant shot that should be reason enough.)

In the commercial world the artwork for an ad will have been designed by an art director or designer, the images to be used in the artwork will often have very specific requirements that have all been decided before a photographer is hired to produce the image.

It becomes the photographers job to ensure the photo fits the layout specifications.

Very rarely am I given a layout, or even specific instructions on a type of shot required by a client.

This Omega shot is an exception. The instruction was that the shot had to be left to right with the yacht on the left. Must have plenty of empty space on the right for the watch, copy and logo. Must be able to be cropped for both double page and single page use.

Quite specific.

Exceptions aside, Most often I am left to my own devices, so I try, within reason, to incorporate as many variants as possible while shooting...

Vertical, horizontal, verticals with space at the top, maybe for a Magazine banner, wide, tight, empty space to the right and left, etc etc, so that when sponsors or clients go looking for a shot to fill a need, there are plenty of options for them to choose from. In the past these considerations only needed to apply to a reasonably limited range of final use formats like magazines, posters, bill boards, post cards etc etc and mostly similar to the aspect ratio produced by the camera. A rectangle with an aspect ratio of around 4:3.

The use of images on line has opened up a whole new can of worms when it comes to framing and cropping and how to incorporate all the possible uses when shooting.

Web site designers come up with all sorts of arbitrary aspect ratios for image boxes with seemingly little consideration to the effect their design decisions will have on what photos will be able to be used or how this decision will limit what photos can be used.

An example of this is the Facebook banner which is 851 pixels wide by 315 pixels high. That equates to an aspect ratio of 2.7:1

The aspect ratios of the full frame cameras used by most photographers with DSLRs is 4:3.

So the Facebook banner requires us to throw away a little over half the horizontal element of the frame.

The America’s Cup website is another example of an aspect ratio which makes things tricky. The news shot crop is 1280 x 760 which is somewhere between 16:9 and 16:10

As you can see from this example, if I shoot the yacht so as to include the whole boat but remain as tight as possible so the boat is as large as possible in the frame, when I drop it in the AC site the top of the mast gets cropped off. There goes the AC logo and country flag.

Original shot...

...and as cropped by AC website

Google is an example of a web designer using an existing aspect ratio in their design.

Google+ uses the 16:9 aspect ratio for their banners. The same ratio as wide screen TVs. My own website has the same issue. Alexander Agnarson, The designer of the Hueman Wordpress theme that I use (and love) made the feature picture box 1040 x 490 and I haven't been able to figure out how to change it, so I have to either, find a shot that will work or be sure to shoot a few shots with the constraints in mind.

Of course I know why this happens.

The designers are required to squeeze in a bunch of stuff above the fold (The stuff that must show up on screen without requiring scrolling) so the photo box gets squeezed to make room for the nav bar, the headline, maybe a preview of the copy, sponsor logos, copyright notice, contact info etc etc.

I reckon the equation is something like... Photo frame height = Screen height - Navigation bar height - sponsor banner height - headline height - info bar height et etc. Isn’t this a bit of an arse about face way of doing things tho? I mean if you were creating a web site for a new event you wouldn’t go to the web site designer and just let them loose on the design without giving them criteria for the elements that will populate the site. The designer would  be given the event logo and be expected to design around it. They will be given sponsor logos and told they can’t change the shape or colour of the logo. A designer wouldn’t create a box for the copy so that the writers for the site must write exactly 2000 characters, no more and no less. So why aren’t they given a photo and told "this is the aspect ratio of the photos we’ll be using, so ideally this should be the aspect ratio of the photo box within the design". Just saying.

As for vertical shots.... Fugedaboutit.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page