Panorama Aspect Ratios
In my film days, the question of aspect ratio never surfaced because it was determined by the camera and its required film. Because so much of my work was done with a 6x9 monorail view camera, aspect ratio of 1.5:1 was my only choice. With today's digital cameras it's one of the new decisions that are available as an option. Of course, if you're comfortable with cropping, then any aspect ratio as possible.
Which brings me to the question of panorama images in particular, because we're working on a new series of panorama format LensWork Folios. One of the first and fundamental decisions we needed to make was the aspect ratio of the folio covers and papers we'll be using to make these new folios. But what is the aspect ratio of the panorama image? Is it 2.8:1 like the so-called 617 panoramic cameras use? Is it 2.5:1 like many photographers use when they make a panorama out of half of a sheet of 8x10 film? Is it 1.77:1 like the video industry uses in its 16:9 widescreen format? Or better 1.6:1, like most widescreen computer monitors that use the 16:10 format? I have no doubt that if I put my mind to it, I could come up with another dozen alternatives.
Obviously, there is no single correct answer. The aspect ratio of the panorama image can be anything the photographer decides — and need not be consistent within a given project. The minute we start cropping for long and skinny images, it's the composition itself that determines the final aspect ratio, not the mechanics of the camera or film.
After playing around with various aspect ratios and trying to fit all the predictable panorama sizes on the page, we finally decided on an aspect ratio of roughly 2:1. This seems to be a sweet spot that allows a comfortable layout with long and skinny formats like 2.8:1 as well as the squattier ones like 1.6:1. There's no doubt it's a compromise, but it seemed to be a reasonable choice when faced with the fact that there is no standardized panorama aspect ratio. I find this freedom quite invigorating and am glad there is so much freedom in cropping these images.