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The ratio of the length to width of your image is defined as its aspect ratio. For example, your HDTV has a different aspect ratio than what your camera shoots. With its 16:9 aspect ratio, your HDTV shows a wider image than the 3:2 aspect ratio of your camera. Now, if you have a point-and-shoot camera, it probably has an even narrower aspect ratio of 4:3, which incidentally is the aspect ratio of standard definition TV. When you're shooting JPEG images, you can choose something other than the camera's native 3:2 aspect ratio.
If you're in live view, the camera will show you guidelines for the aspect ratio that you've chosen. Here in the fourth page of the shooting menu, I have an option for aspect ratio, which is currently set to its default of 3:2. 3:2, of course, is the aspect ratio of the camera's sensor, of the LCD screen; it's the native resolution of the camera. It's also the aspect ratio of traditional 35 mm film. If I pop this open, I get some up some other options; 4:3, the aspect ratio of standard definition TV, and most point-and-shoot cameras.
16:9, the aspect ratio of HDTV, and some theatrically released movies, and 1:1, which of course, is square. Let's take a look at 16:9. If I select this, and now activate live view, you can see I do, in fact, have a different shaped frame here. The letter boxing has been applied to my screen to show me my new frame. I can go ahead and focus, and meter, and do everything else as normally. So I'm going to take that shot. I'm currently shooting in JPEG mode, so when I go to play that back, I actually see a letterboxed version of my image, and when I take this into my computer it will look like this.
If I'm shooting in RAW, the camera cannot actually crop the RAW file, so instead it will tag it as having been shot with a particular aspect ratio. If I then open it in Canon's DPP software, it can take care of cropping it to the aspect ratio that I chose. And then finally, I can have a square aspect ratio, as I mentioned. I just want you to see a more extreme one here. So this is pillar boxed, and again, JPEG images will show this way; RAW images will have to be cropped manually. So if you are a RAW shooter, this isn't so handy, unless you are using Canon's DPP software.
If you've got a different workflow, if you use some different software, this may not help you so much. When we get to the customizing your camera section, you'll learn about an option that allows you to change this letter boxing from solid black bars to a simple line, so that you can actually see what else is in the frame.
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