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What Is Best Aspect Ratio of Display Screens? 16:9 vs 4:3?

by | Apr 23, 2024 | Blogs | 0 comments

Have you ever come across a picture that looks beautiful on your phone but appears stretched on your computer screen? This is where aspect ratio comes in. To avoid pictures with stretched, choppy, distorted, squeezed and shrunk appearance, you need to work out your aspect ratio situation.

In the past, there were only a few options but today with a wide range of displays, there are different aspect ratios with each catering to a different type of display.In order to take the best picture, you’ll need to understand what it actually is.

In this article, we will explore what Aspect ratio is, why it’s important and which aspect ratio is best for your image.

What is Aspect Ratio

Aspect ratio is the relationship between width and height. To explain it further, it’s a proportional relationship between height and width of something. This does not determine the size of the object, but it’s ratio and shape. It’s written with a colon between two number, eg. a:b.

Aspect ratios usually represent anything related to images. Though it does not change regardless of what units the height and width are measured in, the medium of the image does have an impact. For instance, the image on the computer will have a different aspect ratio than the one on the phone. It’s important to be aware of the fact that aspect ratios don’t represent the size of the image but the relationship between height and width.

The first number on the aspect ratio represents the horizontal part of the image and the second number represents the vertical side. However, this is only when the ratio is written as two numbers separated by a colon. When written in decimals, this formula is not followed.

Types of Aspect ratio

Some of the subsets of aspect ratios are:

  • Pixel aspect ratio

Pixel aspect ratio is the relationship between the width and height of the pixel. Essentially it’s a proportion of pixels that create an image. Usually, Pixels are of 1:1 ratio which means they are square shipped. However, pixels can be of rectangular shape as well which would have a ratio of 4:3. This is usually in the cases where the picture is optimized for a certain display.

  • Display aspect ratio

The proportional relationship between the height and width of a display is known as Display Aspect Ratio. It generally refers to the proportion of the image based on what screens it’s being presented on. Since each display has different ratios, the images need to be optimized to match the ratio of the display. When the ratio of the image does not match with the fixed ratio of the device, it appears distorted.

  • Storage aspect ratio

Storage aspect ratio refers to the aspect ratio of digital video files. It represents the proportion of width to height of video frame size. Each frame of the video should have a consistent ratio. For the widescreen videos, the formula mostly is usually SAR x PAR = DAR.

aspect ratio

How to measure Aspect Ratio

Calibration of LED screen, checking refresh rate, grayscale
Calibration of LED screen, checking refresh rate, grayscale

It’s important for photographers and videographers to calculate the size. Since each display has a certain aspect ratio and cameras too have fixed aspect ratio, the images need to be optimized at times to match up with the screen.

Aspect ratios are independent of the size of the image. Regardless of what the size of the image is, it’s actually a ratio of the height and width of the image. When it is represented with a colon in between numbers, the first number represents the width and the second represents the height.

To calculate the aspect ratio, you first need to divide the height of the image with the width of the image. Then multiply it with the preferred width. The result will be the new height in pixels. There are also aspect ratios calculators online that give you a reliable

Why are Aspect ratios important?

Aspect ratios affect how you take your picture and how your final image will look like. Since multiple devices can have different aspect ratios, the image will need to match with it. The photographers and the videographers would need to optimize the aspect ratio of an image to match the display.

However, it’s only possible when the aspect ratios are taken into account while capturing. For example, when you take a photo with 4:3 aspect ratio and try to fit all the elements of the scene into it, you will not be able to crop the image into wider aspect ratios laeter. If you do actually want to go for a wider aspect ratio, you would need to cut the element of the scene.

Same goes for wide aspect ratios. If you capture the image in a very wide aspect ratio, it would be highly difficult for you to crop the image without cropping out sides. This is why it’s crucial for you to understand the aspect ratio before capturing images. The best option would be to go for a ratio where you would have more options later to optimize.

What are some of the common aspect ratios?

Some of the most common aspect ratios are,

  • 1:1

A 1:1 image is the one in which the height and the width of the image are equal. In simpler words, it’s a square. Though it’s not popular on digital platforms, it’s usually found on social media. Initially, Instagram made this popular. Since every image would have to accommodate 1:1, it became popular. For other digital platforms and television, it’s not the best choice. Some of the other areas it’s used are print photographs and phone screens.

  • 5:4

This aspect ratio is highly popular in film cameras with medium and large formats. It’s also really common when 8×10 and 16×20 images are being printed. For standard photography, and art photos, 5:4 is a commonly used aspect ratio.

  • 3:2

Most full frame digital cameras use 3:2 aspect ratio. This aspect ratio is the most common ratio found in the sensors of digital cameras and smartphone cameras. It’s the most popular ratio used in photography. Advanced cameras with smaller APS-C crop sensors also use this ratio. This ratio was made popular by 35mm films.

  • 4:3

4:3 ratio is usually used on cameras that have small sensors. For example, compact cameras or smartphone cameras have small sensors so they use 4:3 aspect ratio. Similarly, Micro-four-third cameras also use this ratio. These cameras are highly advanced, similar to DSLR but have a smaller and more compact size.

  • 16:9

The 16:9 aspect ratio offers a panoramic format. The images captured with this ratio are wider as compared to other ratios. This is quite common in cinemas and in computer displays. Since it’s a wide ratio, it’s not as common in photography. However, landscape photographers prefer using this ratio as it can capture a wider scene. It’s also used for cinematics in filmmaking. It’s also highly popular on television.

Aspect ratio tools

Optimizing aspect ratios is highly crucial. Since each device has a different aspect ratio, photographers, videographers and software developers creating content for different devices need to optimize the ratio to match the device. For this reason, tools that can adjust the aspect ratio prove to be the creator’s best friend.

Post production softwares like photoshop, lightroom and capture one can help you in adjusting the aspect ratio of your image. There are even some softwares online that can change the aspect ratio of your image with just a single click.

16:9 vs 4:3 which aspect ratio is better

16:9 and 4:3 are two of the most popular aspect ratios used in the world. Yet it’s important to understand which aspect ratio is best for you. Different aspect ratios serve different image types. This is why you need to understand the fundamentals of the aspect ratios to choose the best one.

For videos, 16:9 usually serves the best. Since it produces a frame with width that is 78% more than its height, the images produced are widescreen. For this reason, this aspect ratio works best for videos where you need to capture a wider area and have more elements in one frame. It’s also good for images that need to capture a higher width.

4:3 works best for photography. As it offers a higher resolution, the photos that would have to be printed should be taken with 4:3 aspect ratio. It also works best with pictures in which you need to capture a narrow scene.

Feature4:3 Aspect Ratio16:9 Aspect Ratio
Visual Width33% wider than its height78% wider than its height
Area CoverageCovers less area horizontallyCovers about 33% more area horizontally
Vertical InformationMore information verticallyLess vertical coverage due to wider format
Common UsesTraditional photography, printing photosModern displays, video content
Printing CompatibilityIdeal for standard photo sizes (e.g., 4R)May require cropping for traditional sizes
Online SharingWorks well on most platformsPreferred for modern platforms like YouTube
Cropping FlexibilityAllows for flexible croppingLess flexible, cropping reduces information
Feeling ConveyedCan feel more contained, less expansiveFeels more expansive and immersive


The bottom line is, understanding the fundamentals of aspect ratios is highly important. Without knowing what it is, and how it works, your images will most likely turn out choppy or stretched. Each aspect ratio works well for different types of images and displays. To capture the best image, try to find out which one will work the best for your image type. Happy capturing!

About the Author

Kris Liang

Kris Liang

Founder/LED display expert

Kiris Liang is the founder of Doitvision. 12 + years in LED visual industry. Full passion of LED, product designer & chief salesman. Looking for teammate of technical/ marketing / sales.

Connecting people relative with LED displays.

Email: kris@doitvision.net