At the movies I enjoy watching previews almost as much as the main feature. Have you noticed one of the filmmaking techniques used to capture our attention?

Digital photo cropped into widescreen format

Digital photo cropped into widescreen format

It is the super close-up. These over-sized images incite within us a desire to learn the reason for the hero's agonizing expression.

This same technique can bring attention to a scrapbook layout or web page. In this article I give you the general steps for creating widescreen digital photos for pasting into a scrapbook, inclusion on a web page, or hanging on a wall.

What Makes a Photo Widescreen?

At the movie theater, film is projected in a much wider aspect ratio than a conventional TV. To show the same movie on a standard TV set, portions of the image have to be trimmed away to fit the narrower display.

The shape of an image is known as the "aspect ratio". This is the ratio of the width compared to the height. Since width is the longer measurement, height is generally indicated as 1, and width as the appropriate number in relation to 1. Examples in this article use an aspect ratio of 2.4:1 (read as "2.4 to 1"), the widest ratio commonly used in filmmaking today. This ratio simply means that the width is 2.4 times as long as the height.

Making the Widescreen Photo

Original image

Original digital photo

To convert a digital photo into widescreen format, we crop it with photo editing software into the 2.4:1 ratio. The actual steps are few and very simple, so I'm going to provide generic steps which you can convert into commands applicable to your favorite digital photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0.

First, let's start with an example. To the right is the original digital photo and the widescreen aspect ratio below it. Notice how portions of the individuals' hair is trimmed—this was done on purpose to increase the close-up effect, creating a more dramatic image.

Digital photo cropped into widescreen format

Digital photo cropped into widescreen format

  1. Select the digital photo.
  2. Open the photo in your editing software.
  3. Choose the crop tool and enter the following proportions:
    • Width: 2.4 inches
    • Height: 1 inch

    • Note that our intention is not to create an image 2.4 inches wide, but to provide the software with the desired aspect ratio.

  4. Drag the mouse over the area you wish to keep.
  5. Crop the image to the selected area, usually by hitting the Enter key.
  6. Save the image as a new file name.

If the widescreen photo is destined for a web page, reduce the image size if necessary, and save another copy of the image as a JPEG file. You are ready to include it into the web page.

Printing for Scrapbook Layout

If you have a digital photo printer at home, then you are ready to print the widescreen photo. A common photo paper size is the 4x6", which should do fine for most scrapbook uses. Print the photo, wait a few minutes for the ink to dry completely, and trim the white edges.

Printing two widescreen photos on a single 4 x 6″ photo paper

Printing two widescreen photos on a single 4x6" photo paper

If a smaller photo is sufficient, expensive ink and photo paper can be conserved by placing two widescreen photos on a single 4x6" paper. To accomplish this, follow these steps within your digital photo editing software:

  1. Create a new, blank image with 6" width, 4" height, and 300 pixels per inch resolution.
  2. Open the first widescreen photo, select it, copy it, close it, and paste it into the blank 4x6" image.
  3. Open the second widescreen photo, select it, copy it, close it, and paste it into the 4x6" image as well.
  4. Move and size the two widescreen images so they fit onto the 4x6" image with a small amount of border, for easier trimming. Remember to hold down the Shift key as you drag the image corners to keep the aspect ratio while sizing.
  5. Print the image onto 4x6" photo paper and cut out the two widescreen photos for use in scrapbook.

If you do not have a photo printer at home, you can prepare the images as described above and upload to an online service to have them developed (see Online Digital Photo Developing). While online developing can be a cost-saving option under some circumstances, it may be inconvenient and costly for a small number of photos (see Digital Photo Printing at Home).

In the examples I used the 2.4:1 aspect ratio, but you are certainly not limited to this. Experiment with narrower and wider shapes to discover the best look for your layout. Whether on scrapbook pages or a web site, have fun making your subjects look like stars on the big screen!