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Full Frame vs. Full Bleed

Updated: Mar 2, 2018

If you don't print images a lot (ie. you don't work in a print lab) there are some commonly used terms that may not be familiar to you. One pair that causes confusion are Full Frame and Full Bleed.

Full Frame printing is pretty much what it sounds like - the full image is printed and there is no cropping or loss of the image. If we are talking an image straight from your camera or 35mm film (2:3 ratio), then a full frame print would be 4x6, 8x12, 12x18, 16x24, etc. Now aside from the 4x6, those others are some harder frame sizes to find, so that's where the other options come in: Full Frame on a standard print size paper or a Full Bleed print. To print a 2:3 ratio image Full Frame on 8x10 paper, there will be white bars on the sides of the image to make up the empty space (the actual print area would be 6.7x10). So now you can either put the image in a standard size frame and just deal with the extra white, or your can have your image custom matted so it will fit into the next size larger frame (in this case, usually an 11x14 frame if you're not having one made custom). Option number 3 is to print Full Bleed which means that the image will be cropped to fit the ratio of the paper you want (8x10 = 4:5 ratio). The downside to this is that there will be some image loss which, in the case of our example, may not be a big deal. Sometimes, if all of the image is important, cropping is not an option and that is when we revert to the Full Frame option.

We hope that this makes a little bit of sense and clarifies some of the lab terminology that we (the royal 'we' - photo labs) use.

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