A Guide to Understanding Aspect Ratio

Choosing the correct aspect ratio is a must when it comes to creating the best experience possible for your viewers. Getting this crucial step right ensures that your video will fill your viewers' screens with minimal black filler space or the inability to see the entire video. Aspect ratio describes the relationship between the width and the height of a particular video, image, or screen.

What Is Aspect Ratio?

Aspect ratio refers to the ratio between the width and the height of your video or image. It consists of two numbers that respectively indicate how the video's width and height relate to one another. For example, a video or image with a 1:1 aspect ratio is a square with equal width and height, while a 3:1 aspect ratio indicates a horizontal rectangle that is three times longer than it is tall. While these numbers are frequently confused with the number of megapixels, inches, or other types of size measurements of a video, they do not directly identify the size or quality of your video.

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Why Is Aspect Ratio Important?

Most modern cameras and phones have several settings that allow photographers and videographers to adjust the aspect ratio of their photos and videos, unlike many older cameras that only took one type of photo or video (often with a 3:2 aspect ratio). Similarly, many phones, tablets, and computer screens do not perfectly match the aspect ratio of the content that is produced by digital cameras, video cameras, and even other phones. Often, these screens do not even have the same aspect ratio as other devices of approximately the same size and age.

For example, Amazon's Fire HD 10 tablet has a long, narrow screen with a 16:10 (or 8:5) aspect ratio, while the iPad Pro 11 has a much wider screen with a 1.43:1 aspect ratio. Many phone and laptop screens also vary significantly, which means that it is a good idea to choose settings that allow videos to adjust to best fit your viewers' devices when editing and uploading your video. If this is not possible, choose a common aspect ratio that can look good, if not necessarily perfect, on most screens, such as 4:3 or 16:9. Be sure to keep enough space around the subject you are filming to avoid having the important part of your video cut off if your viewers choose to manually adjust the video to fill their screens.

How to Choose the Right Aspect Ratio

Choosing the right aspect ratio involves considering where your video is most likely to be viewed. For example, standard YouTube videos utilize a 16:9 aspect ratio, while standard Instagram posts utilize a 1:1 or 4:5 aspect ratio. Although it is possible to upload posts with different aspect ratios, such as posting old home videos with aspect ratios that are closer to those of older TVs on YouTube or cropping your Instagram posts using custom aspect ratios, sticking to standard aspect ratios whenever possible ensures that your videos will look their best on your viewers' screens.

If you would like your videos to be able to be viewed in a typical full-screen format, it is also important to consider the aspect ratio of the devices the majority of your viewers will be watching on. Depending on your viewers' settings, choosing a custom aspect ratio that does not come close to the aspect ratio of your viewers' screens will result in either a distorted image with the edges cut off or significant black lines on the top and bottom or sides of your video to fill in empty space, while matching your aspect ratio to your viewers' screens will result in a better viewing experience.


Choosing the right aspect ratio ensures that your video will look good on as many screens as possible. Combining this step with adjusting other essential settings helps videographers create the best viewing experience possible for a wide variety of viewers.

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