Framing 13×19 photographic prints


How do you frame your prints?

Modern DSLR cameras produce images in an 8×12 format which is a bit more rectangular.  In comparison an 8×10 print looks much squarer.  The tricky part is finding mats and frames for 8×12 or 13×19 which is the largest size many people’s home photo printers can produce.

Art Prints

4×5, 5×7, 8×10, these standard sizes that you would get from a photo studio or school photo day photographers are easy to find in your local Kohls, Target, Walmart or any other store that has a home decorating section.  But try to find a non-standard size and it gets trickier and expensive.

Let’s face it.  Framing outside of standard sizes gets expensive.  Rarely does one save as much money as they think they might framing it themselves.  Often it better to simply order a framed print when ordering a unique from size from my gallery.  Or ordering a canvas print.  Canvas prints are basically always made to order and the labor is less than having a mat cut and a frame made to size.

Art Prints

Where did these photographic ratios come from?

Some say that the 4 to 3 ratio comes from the printing industry. 8.5×11 inch was a common paper size even before the first photo was ever made; and goes back several centuries.  4×5 inch film was popular back in the day of large format camera including those press cameras you see in the movies.  8×10 is simply a multiple of 4×5.

35mm format is 3:2 and there are not a lot of 6×4 frames or mats out there. One solution is to shoot with cropping in mind.  Give in today’s cameras large megapixel counts, as long as you are not producing billboards, one can easily crop to fit a more standard ratio.

35mm still is 8 sprocket holes on 35mm movie film; which makes about a 24x36mm frame. “regular” movie film running vertically is 4 sprocket holes. Still 35mm cameras evolved from 35mm films used with 35mm movie cameras. Mechanically it easy easy to make the film advance an intergral number of sprocket holes. Thus 8 was used with most 35mm still cameras; one sprocket hole is 45 degrees of sprocket rotation. – Kelly Flanigan

Hip to be Square

Shooting, cropping and formatting for a square aspect ratio has a lot of advantages.  There are ready made square frames in smaller sizes like 4×4, 8×8, 10×10, with the popularity of Instagram, frame manufactures have created a lot of ready made frames for this ratio.

Art Prints

Another advantage is the square online often gets shown larger on certain websites.  Because the square is easier to layout on a page, photos are often cropped willy nilly into squares, you by creating a square yours is less likely to be cropped in a strange way when displayed in certain situations.

The downside is composing in a square format can be challenging. Square frames and mats:

Wood Frame, 14 by 14-Inch, Matted to 7-inch by 7-inch Opening, Black:
Kiera Grace Langford Wood Frame, 14 by 14-Inch, Matted to 7-inch by 7-inch Opening, Black

8×8 frame:
Malden International Designs Manhattan Matted 8×8 Black Wall Picture Frame

16×16 black frame:

Art To Frames Picture Frame, 16 by 16-Inch, Black

Framing the 13×19 Print

I recently had the chance to prints some photographs on an Epson photo printer at the arts center where I teach.  Now what to do with the output without spending an arm and a leg on custom framing.

If you print with a 1/2-inch margin all around (12×18), and then mat with 3 inches all around, you will have an 18×24 matted print, which is a stock frame size found in most art supply stores.

You can choose to frame casually without a mat (poster style) or buy a mat and then a frame.

You can get pre-cut mats here:

10 of 18×24 White Pre-cut Acid-free whitecore mat for 13×19 + back+bag

18×24 frame:

Art To Frames Picture Frame, 18 by 24-Inch, Black

13×19 Frame (no matting):
Art To Frames Picture Frame, 13 by 19-Inch, Black


Hip to be Square – Embracing the Square Format


In the past the square format in film photography was really only achieved by either using 6x6cm format medium cameras and film or cropping your images at the old paper cutter. (BTW: Medium format was prized by magazine photographers because the results could easily be cropped for horizontal or vertical images.)

Some photographers made a name for themselves using this distinctive square format like Diane Arbus whose off-beat characters looked even more off beat in the square format.   Diane’s brand of street photography with a TLR Rolleiflex in the square-format, allowed her to look down into the camera so that she wasn’t staring ahead at her subject, who were typically those marginalized people in society — including transgender people, dwarfs, nudists, circus people.  Nothing puts a person “on guard” more than having a camera thrust in their face or pointed at them like the barrel of a gun.  The Rolleifliex being a twin lens reflex camera like this one:


So the photographer looks down into the prism and looks out through the top lens.  The bottom lens is the one actually used to take the picture.  A lot less threatening to the subject compared to a big zoom lens held up at eye level.  These medium format cameras took short rolls of really big film – 6×6 cm nominal. Keep in mind not all medium format cameras took only squares, as different backs could be purchased which would give different aspects such as the popular 645 (6×4.5cm nominal) or 6×7 (6x7cm nominal).

Now with digital processing and even cameras that can switch aspect ratios, the square format is even more of a viable option. Plus there are plenty of ready made mats and frames in the 8×8 or 11×11 range.   Not every image fits comfortably into the square format of course.  We typically view the world has a wide horizontal like panoramic landscapes and cinema.  Or we see a lot of verticals like in magazines or book covers.  On the web we see a lot of horizontal banners but also smaller square images in ads.   Web designers love the square because it fits so well and doesn’t cause a lot of formatting problems.

A square is very versatile.  You can stack squares and form larger squares.  You can pair squares and form horizontals.  Or stack them up and form skyscrapers.  Squares can become throw pillow or get their edges cut off to become clock or other circle products.


Composing in the square format can be the same or different than horizontal.  Rule of thirds is fine but the square allows the subject to fit very nicely smack dab in the middle of the image.  Lines and shapes become more pronounce in the square format.  The square heightens the graphic quality of the image.

To some the square is preferred for fine art photography because it goes against the norm.  Its unexpected in the typical world of photography so it stands out as perhaps different than the typical snapshot.


  • The first square format camera was made by Rollei in 1929.
  • Some famous square format camera photographers: Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Diane Arbus.
  • There are no current digital cameras that have a square sensor. But digital photography makes it easy to crop your images to any aspect ratio you want.

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