The most common image and video aspect ratios are 4:3 and 16:9.
An aspect ratio is defined as the ratio between the width and height of an image or video. It determines how that image or video is going to look on a screen.
As a creator, you need to understand the differences, pros, and cons of the two widely used aspect ratios: 4:3 and 16:9.
This blog post will provide an overview of these aspect ratios and how they should be used properly.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What is Aspect Ratio?
An aspect ratio is used to define the shape and size of digital media (images, videos, monitors, and screens).
It’s expressed in the form of two numbers separated by a colon.
For instance, here’s what the 16:9 aspect ratio means:
For every 16 units of width, there are 9 units of height.
Think of it as a rectangle divided into equal parts. 16 of them are in the horizontal direction (width) and 9 of them are in the vertical direction (height).
Visualize the 16:9 aspect ratio and you’ll be able to imagine a rectangle that’s taller than its width.
Another example would be 4:3:
For every 4 units of width, there are 3 units of height.
Differences Between 4:3 vs 16:9
The key difference between the two aspect ratios is in the proportional relationship between the width and height.
The 16:9 aspect ratio creates a wide rectangular-shaped screen or image.
Whereas the 4:3 aspect ratio creates a relatively taller, more square-shaped image.
From a percentage standpoint, the 16:9 aspect ratio is 78% more in width than height, whereas the 4:3 aspect ratio is 33% more in width than its height.
The dimensional difference between the two aspect ratios affects how they can be used to display images and videos.
What Happens If You Display 4:3 on 16:9
If you wanted to fill the image or video with a 4:3 aspect ratio in a 16:9 frame, the final result would contain borders on both sides.
To change it, you would need to:
- Stretch the image horizontally (resulting in image distortion)
- Zoom in (resulting in losing content at the top and bottom)
What Happens If You Display 16:9 on 4:3
Now, let’s imagine the opposite – you have a 16:9 aspect ratio image and want to display it in a 4:3 frame.
The final result would look like this:
In this situation, you could:
- Stretch the image vertically (resulting in image distortion)
- Zoom in (resulting in cropping content at the sides)
4:3 Vs 16:9 Which One is Better
The choice of aspect ratio depends on the medium. For older television footage and images, the 4:3 aspect ratio is still the go-to option.
Whereas the 16:9 aspect ratio is intended for:
Having said that, today, people use a lot of different devices with different aspect ratios.
So, creators are using multiple aspect ratios for their content so that it can be seen on every device.
Takeaway: the 16:9 is considered the standard and most common aspect ratio.
Digital cameras, mobile phones, and streaming platforms like Netflix, and YouTube all use this aspect ratio.
So, if you’re a modern content creator, 16:9 is an aspect ratio you don’t want to miss out on.
Imagine creating a piece of content that can’t be viewed on YouTube or even on mobile phones.
It’s always a good idea to optimize your content for multiple devices. This involves creating multiple aspect ratios so that the content is shown in its best possible form on every device and platform.
Both aspect ratios have their pros and cons, so choosing one isn’t that straightforward.
When is 4:3 Used
The 4:3 aspect ratio is commonly used in film and television. Creators also use this aspect ratio to create educational or informative videos. Images are commonly displayed in 4:3.
However, its popularity has been declining in the video realm ever since the wide-screen aspect ratio (16:9) was introduced.
When is 16:9 Used
16:9 lets creators showcase more information in the horizontal position.
The aspect ratio is mostly used for modern content. For instance, this aspect ratio is used on YouTube.
Which One Should You Use?
You should choose your aspect ratio depending on your project. But, generally, it makes sense to use the 4:3 aspect ratio for photos and 16:9 for videos.
But, we recommend experimenting with both as you gain more confidence as a content creator.
For instance, make sure your videos are always in the 16:9 aspect ratio if you’re targeting a YouTube audience. On the other hand, images tend to look and work better in the 4:3 aspect ratio.
However, photos usually have a different aspect ratio.
The most common aspect ratio in modern photography is 3:2. Creators also showcase their images in a 3:2 aspect ratio when they need their photos to have less height than the 4:3 aspect ratio.
Using 4:3 allows creators to showcase more information or content in a photograph. In addition to television and film, this ratio might be used for social media images and prints.
Some social media platforms, like Instagram or Facebook, can change your images’ aspect ratio automatically.
For instance, Instagram doesn’t post your 4:3 photos as is on its feed. It crops them. The most common aspect ratio for social media visuals is 1:1 (square).
16:9 is the go-to aspect ratio for modern creators when it comes to video production.
In short, all of the modern devices are extremely friendly for this aspect ratio:
- Modern TVs
Most cameras also record videos in this ratio because it displays broader scenery in a single frame.
I would say 16:9 is the most common aspect ratio for videos to this date.
A variety of aspect ratios can be used to fit the requirements of displaying media, content, and consumers.
Today, people consume content on various devices. So, it’s important to keep in mind that content can be seen properly on any device.
This can mean creating content in a variety of aspect ratios to fit all needs.
Remember, 16:9 is the most popular aspect ratio, mostly for videos. For photos, it’s usually 3:2 but you can’t go wrong with 4:3 as well.
We hope by now, you know the difference between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios and can now use them effectively and confidently!