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Author Topic: Rule of Thirds Question.  (Read 5207 times)
russell a
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« on: August 13, 2005, 11:13:06 AM »
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Play around with your image.  There are many possiblities i.e. cropping, adjusting white balance, or converting to B&W that could improve the image.  I will refrain from my suggestions, it's your photo, everyone crops differently, depending on their sense of narrative and composition and I certainly don't want to ignite another "style wars" series of posts.  Ditto on the advice to take "rules" with a block of salt.  Study historical photos that you admire and forge your own sense of what works for you.  Learning to see for yourself is the most important thing.  "Rules" can help the learning process sometimes but can hinder learning if applied blindly.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2005, 03:48:05 PM »
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Play around with your image.  There are many possiblities i.e. cropping, adjusting white balance, or converting to B&W that could improve the image.  I will refrain from my suggestions, it's your photo, everyone crops differently, depending on their sense of narrative and composition and I certainly don't want to ignite another "style wars" series of posts.  Ditto on the advice to take "rules" with a block of salt.  Study historical photos that you admire and forge your own sense of what works for you.  Learning to see for yourself is the most important thing.  "Rules" can help the learning process sometimes but can hinder learning if applied blindly.
Russel,

Yep, I understand that for sure, but please let me hear your style ideas. That's the only way for me to learn. Others can chime in also. We're all adults, so there is no need for a style war, just ideas. If anyone feels the need to start a style war, please create a thread called "style war".

If I could retake that picture, say, with the masts futher off to the right, maybe only showing in the right third, where the lights are the implied horizon and further near the top horizontal third line, do you think that would make a good picture?
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dwdallam
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« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2005, 11:49:17 PM »
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I want to go back to your original concept of cropping by matting. Why not just do the traditional approach...

1) Crop the image to the proportions you want, leaving a very small margin for mat overlap.

2) Resize to suit & print.

3) Use a mat and frame to suit the print.

You are sort of trying to approach it backwards. If you intend a crop, it should go to the print that way.

OK, on the cropping issue you are correct and it sounds so easy, but here is my thinking, and man is it a pain in the ass.

I use the Noritsu 3.xx printer, and it prints at 320 ppi. If I set my resolution to max of 8 mp at a 3:2 aspect ratio, I can resize perfectly for the Noritsu 3.xx printer in Photoshop for its 12 x 18 print size without losing anything in the picture. However, if I want a 12" tall photo that isn't as wide as the 3:2 aspect ratio, I set the camera to standard 8mps size and 12" tall comes out to 16" wide. However, the Noritsu doesn't print at 12x16. The next step down is 11x14. The problem with 11x14, which I hate, is that it gives unequal matting space in the 16x20 standard frame size, unless you have the matting cut to an unequal size, like 9x13 (so you lose more off the height than the width in order to get equal space all the way around in a 16x20 frame). You can't do much else because at a 13" hole, you only have 0.5 inch to play with for the width. For some reason, I hate that aspect ratio. On the other hand, a 12x16 print can be perfectly matted to have equal space all around in a 16x20 frame (hole size would be 10x14 or 11x15 which gives 3" or 2.5" all around, and 3" I think looks better). This is a more pleasing rectangle, in my opinion, than what you can get with 11x14 sizes.

So, in order to get a 12x16 print, I need to print on 12x18 paper. Can you see my analysis here? Perhaps I am over thinking the situation, but I really put my head to work and tried to figure it all out before buying matting and frames, etc. What I ended up with is 16x20 frames with matting that has a hole size of 10x14 and 18x24 frames with matting that has a hole size of 10x16. This gives a nice 3" and 4" all around for the 16x20 and 18x24 frames, respectively.

So, I can crop the images and print them at either size I guess, as long as the crop is not too far off the aspect ratio I am using, or I would need a different mat size or I would lose more of the image in either width or height.

My conclusion is that I'd rather compose the image as close to perfect as I can and avoid much croppping in the future. However, to answer your question, since I have 1" all around on either size image, I can move the image to the left or right, top or bottom as much as 1 7/8.

I was trying to keep the matting standard for cost reasons. I got the matting in white core acid free from Redimat.com for about 2.50 average each. Plus, I have to think about frame sizes too and space around them from the picture. Unless I wanted to use a nonstandard frame size, cutting matting with different hole sizes for each picture while maintianing the same space all around, or bottom weighting it even, would be a nightmare. So I just figured I'd use 16x20 and 18x24 frames, and then the matting I described above, printing both on 12x18 paper. I was trying to (1) keep price down and (2) standardize frames and matting.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2005, 04:43:00 AM »
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Dwdallam:  I appreciate your patience with my opinions.  How I position the image in the frame depends some on the image.  I tend towards 16x20 or 24x30 frames, with sometimes as much as 4" white space around the image.  Depending on the image, I sometimes leave more at the bottom than at the top.  This seems consistent with our innate sense of gravity!!  For the left and right edges my criterion is simply not to crowd them.  The fact that they are more narrow than the top or bottom has never bothered me.  It's really a nice clean look.  I'm sure many people don't even notice there is no mat.*  I even put a square image in a rectangle, but definitely have more at the bottom in those cases.  For panoramic crops I find that the aspect ratio allows more narrow side borders than the lower ratioed rectilinear cases.  It's really a nice clean look.  I'm sure many people don't even notice there is no mat.*

Regarding architectural tilt-back - correct it in Photoshop.  It's cheaper and more flexible than tilt-shift lenses.  As regards distracting elements one has a few choices:  1)  keep looking for an angle - the picture you wish were there sometimes is just not, but one as good or better often is, 2) cropping a shot taken from a distance, for which it is handy to have megapixels to spare, or 3) demolition, or more socially acceptable, if you don't find it ethically reprehensible, the Photoshop equivalent.  Option 1 is in many ways the best.

* Truth in advertising - I greater favor the image over its presentation - I am very critical when the presentation itself is the dominant narrative element - which I see a lot.  I have been known to say that a strong image can even survive a few coffee stains.  So far I have resisted staining them on purpose.
Well, they are more than your opinions. Your ideas on this subject are reasoned from experience, which makes them valid arguments in photography.

So how do you mount the image in the frame itself without matting?

Your ideas on correcting tiltback are good. I like #1 also the best I think, as it is a more natural approach to the problem.

I also hate when I see stupid frames overpowering the photography. It's amazing how many photographers display in funky frames.

I bought the 1" deep, black brushed aluminum with the 3/8 front lip (really small) and use a solid core white matting. It's a very utilitarian and spartan look, but clean and non imposing. I'm sure you've seen that combination over and over again. It also has the effect of being very standardized so the eye quickly loses interest in the shape when there are several images on display using the same setup. Well, anyway, that's why I chose that combination--they are spartan but clean looking.

I went back to the marina tongiht and shot three subjects. I reshot the lights and two boats. I think I got the lights better, but it's pretty boring color-wise. Of the two boats, one I have decided is boring and deleted, but it was a good exercise in composition and exposure for me. The last boat pic came out, uh, interesting, but without a proper focal point and the angle was slightly off. But I'm excited about going back and getting it again tomorrow. Here are the two. I may try something again with the lights, but I really want to get this boat picture down right before the boats pull out. So I'll be concentrating on that tomorrow. The lights could have had a little more zoom, but I ran out all the way to my max -1.

Here is the link, with one on top of the other. I did no adjustments on them, just resized them and posted them cause I'm tired and going to bed: http://www.idlethoughtsandchaos.com/photo/
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framah
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2005, 05:25:44 PM »
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When you just mount without a mat, how do you keep the glass off the photo? That is the original reason a mat is there. Keeping the glass away from the photo prevents  the print from sticking to the glass when moisture builds up on the inside of the glass.  Ever see old photos stuck to the glass? Not good. Also even if it doesn't stick, it will stain the print.
without a mat, you should place a spacer between the photo and the glass. The cost of a spacer is as much or more than a mat. Better to just mat it in white and be done with it. It isn't pretentous at all. It is saving the print from possible damage.

Of course, in the long run, you are allowed to do whatever you want with your images but you still need to know why it is done the professional way before you decide to do it differently.
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framah
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« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2005, 01:57:54 PM »
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The compromise of sorts is to use the ready made frame sizes and then have the mats cut to whatever opening you need. I agree that it helps you to use ready made sizes to cut costs.  You could buy a cheap mat cutter for around $100 or so and cut your own mats. Alot of artists at least do their own mats.

 Hope it all works out for you and you become rich and famous!!
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2005, 03:04:59 PM »
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About 2% of pictures I take go on sale and that is pretty good. Of course most of that is working on the same theme but with different compositions and bracketing. I only shoot a scene if it has serious potential, don't waste my time otherwise. I work on the principle, if I would buy it then I shoot it, otherwise forget it.

I have my matt's custom made, costs more than the print because I use very thick double matts but it is well worth it. A 4" double matt of an 18X12" picture with a strung backing board and cellophane wrap costs me 18.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2005, 03:24:55 AM »
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As I understand the rule of thirds, you want the focus point on the intersections of one of the four points. Barring that possibility, you want to keep the focal point on the lines. That sounds simple, and it is in many situations, and it even keeps one from breaking other rules (e.g., horizons are kept out of the center by heeding the Rule of Thirds).

My question is what do you do when you have an otherwise decent photo that mildly breaks the rule, such as a light house that has it's tower close to center?

Another example is this photo:
http://www.idlethoughtsandchaos.com/photo/
Is the photo above one for the trash since it misses that rule by a bit? I think that if the lights were up a little ont eh top third line, it would make a ton of difference. I can use matting to fix most if it, but it still is a point of contention for me. I feel like I'm cheating using matting to fix it.  

On a related note, I'm also nervous about displaying a photo after cropping it with matting (I usually bulk order matting with 1" on all sides so I can crop a little using the matting). The problem is when a person wants to buy the image only. If they don't mat it correctly, it won't display like the one they saw from my display. Is that a problem, or is it the customer's responsibility to mat it correctly?
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wolfnowl
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« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2005, 09:36:55 AM »
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My question is what do you do when you have an otherwise decent photo that mildly breaks the rule, such as a light house that has it's tower close to center?

To put it simply, rules were made to be broken.  The rule of thirds, 'C' and 'S' curves, framing and other 'rules' are guidelines for making photographs, but what You see through the viewfinder is uniquely your vision.  Having looked at your photo, for my part I agree with Bob.  The image has too many competing elements.  I would have sought a different angle that pared down what I was trying to include in the frame.

Mike.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2005, 03:34:06 PM »
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OK I understand and agree with all of your comments. But please, don't be afraid to chop it up and spit it out! I never take this sort of thing personal. This is about me learning to do better photography, which is something I really want to learn to do better. I just want to learn as much as I can, and by you all saying and recommending what YOU would do or not do, I learn your techniques, which I can then think about and find my own photographic voice, like reading the great authors helps ones writing skills.

I am posting another picture of a lighthouse I got while in Oregan, USA, last week. It's a long story, but I only took three hurried shots and said screw it. A north wind was blowing about 30 knots and it was really cold. I just couldn't keep my mind on it. The question for that picture is that it does seem to hit a couple of the intersections, but the tower is near the middle. Anyway, any comments on it will be very helpful too.
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dwdallam
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« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2005, 03:40:31 PM »
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My question is what do you do when you have an otherwise decent photo that mildly breaks the rule, such as a light house that has it's tower close to center?

To put it simply, rules were made to be broken.  The rule of thirds, 'C' and 'S' curves, framing and other 'rules' are guidelines for making photographs, but what You see through the viewfinder is uniquely your vision.  Having looked at your photo, for my part I agree with Bob.  The image has too many competing elements.  I would have sought a different angle that pared down what I was trying to include in the frame.

Mike.
Yeah that makes lots of sense--in other words, the image is too busy, right?
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« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2005, 04:14:13 PM »
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More properly stated, the primary FOCAL point is ideally located at the intersection of thirds, not FOCUS point.

In your picture, the FOCAL point seemed to be the boat masts, but the tonality was so subdued I wanted to look elsewhere. Sort of a paradox. This does not follow the rules of thirds, to my mind. If it were better lit, then the boat masts would hit two of the four intersections. This would have probably worked and been a nicely creative adaptation of the rule of thirds.

By the way, the rule of thirds is just meant to be good advice. It should help composition. It is also reinforced by BoKu's Obvious Rule of Composition: Do not put the Focal Point in the center of the image.
Boku, yes, I see that now too. I think waht I was trying to do was get the masts a more of a silouette, and then have the eye look past them to the lights. I think I failed in that respect. But does that make sense?
Makes sense, but consider you are trying a sillouette with points of light (almost specular) rather then continuous tones (like a sky). It gets busy.

I want to go back to your original concept of cropping by matting. Why not just do the traditional approach...

1) Crop the image to the proportions you want, leaving a very small margin for mat overlap.

2) Resize to suit & print.

3) Use a mat and frame to suit the print.

You are sort of trying to approach it backwards. If you intend a crop, it should go to the print that way.
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« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2005, 06:56:32 PM »
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Yeah that makes lots of sense--in other words, the image is too busy, right?

In a word, yes.  FOR ME.  That's where personal opinion comes in, and you get one too.  BTW, you didn't post a link for the lighthouse shot...

Mike.
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macgyver
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« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2005, 11:09:58 PM »
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By the way, the rule of thirds is just meant to be good advice. It should help composition. It is also reinforced by BoKu's Obvious Rule of Composition: Do not put the Focal Point in the center of the image.

"They're more guidelines than actual rules."

I've seen great shots where placing the subject in the middle, as opposed to on a 3rd makes all the difference. The rule of 3rds is fantastic, but not all-encompasing.
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russell a
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« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2005, 02:02:41 AM »
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In my opinion, the goal of shooting to fit a standard mat aspect ratio will, most of the time, mean that you will be including or excluding picture elements that will alter the narrative of the photo.  I would never approach it that way.  For me, each photograph has a unique aspect ratio.  What is included in the photo are those elements that: 1) contribute to the "story line" and 2) formally relate the overall composition to the edges of the image.  Sometimes it matches the film/sensor aspect ratio, mostly it doesn't.  I neither celebrate full frame capture nor despair when I have to crop.  In fact, cropping is my way of being definitive about what I want included.  For me, "full-framing" and your "standard ratio" approach compromises a critical set of choices.  

Now, what do I mean by narrative?  Simply put, it's your sense of what the photo is "about".  Take your lighthouse photo.  Ask yourself if the photo is "about" the unusual (and eye-grabbing) tree shapes on the left edge, or the lumpy shape (rock, island?) out in the water.  How much is it about the sky, or the grass in the foreground?  Unless there is something significant about the surrounding context (like showing how isolated something is or how ironic it is to find it in an environment that somehow contradicts it) it is frequently important to move in on your subject.  Go closer [click], closer still [click], keep going ..... [click]

BTW, I never use mats and dislike them intensely, not just because they are a pain and expensive, but because, for me, they have a pretentious air about them - a cheap way of trying to say "this is Art".  I print with generous white borders and frame them simply with no mats.  I know that my position on mats is idiosyncratic.  I like it that way.
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russell a
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« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2005, 03:14:07 PM »
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Dwdallam:  I appreciate your patience with my opinions.  How I position the image in the frame depends some on the image.  I tend towards 16x20 or 24x30 frames, with sometimes as much as 4" white space around the image.  Depending on the image, I sometimes leave more at the bottom than at the top.  This seems consistent with our innate sense of gravity!!  For the left and right edges my criterion is simply not to crowd them.  The fact that they are more narrow than the top or bottom has never bothered me.  It's really a nice clean look.  I'm sure many people don't even notice there is no mat.*  I even put a square image in a rectangle, but definitely have more at the bottom in those cases.  For panoramic crops I find that the aspect ratio allows more narrow side borders than the lower ratioed rectilinear cases.  It's really a nice clean look.  I'm sure many people don't even notice there is no mat.*

Regarding architectural tilt-back - correct it in Photoshop.  It's cheaper and more flexible than tilt-shift lenses.  As regards distracting elements one has a few choices:  1)  keep looking for an angle - the picture you wish were there sometimes is just not, but one as good or better often is, 2) cropping a shot taken from a distance, for which it is handy to have megapixels to spare, or 3) demolition, or more socially acceptable, if you don't find it ethically reprehensible, the Photoshop equivalent.  Option 1 is in many ways the best.

* Truth in advertising - I greater favor the image over its presentation - I am very critical when the presentation itself is the dominant narrative element - which I see a lot.  I have been known to say that a strong image can even survive a few coffee stains.  So far I have resisted staining them on purpose.
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jani
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« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2005, 06:34:28 AM »
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I went back to the marina tongiht and shot three subjects. I reshot the lights and two boats. I think I got the lights better, but it's pretty boring color-wise.
That could mean that converting to black-and-white using the channel mixer might help the images along a bit.

But sometimes, just desaturating partially also changes the image quite a lot. I did a simple desaturation with the boats in the GIMP, and I think that if you were to do something similar on the original, it would be quite effectful:



To my eye, the effect here is that suddenly, my eye gets drawn to Jenna Lee and the small boats next to her. Jenna Lee gets the attention because of her saturated color, and the small boats are effectfully illuminated.

Experiment a bit with it, and maybe you'll find something that's really, really good. I like the composition, regardless of choice of colors. Perhaps you could sell this to the owner of the Jenna Lee.

If you want to look at how the rule of thirds theoretically might have something to do with the appeal I find in this image, then consider that the brightest illuminated little boat is half away from one third away from the bottom, and one third away from one third away from the left.
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framah
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« Reply #17 on: August 15, 2005, 05:09:29 PM »
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My opinion... Rule number 2 is ignore rule number 1 whenever necessary. They are all just guides.

 Now about your sizes. Your problem is that you are trying to fit your stuff into "standard", ready made frames and mat openings. This will almost always fail you in that, as you stated, your images don't fit. Always go for the image first and that will tell you the size frame you need. If you MUST use ready made frames then the matting becomes very important to the finished piece.  What will help you here is to cut the mats so the opposite sides are equal. It provides a balance to the whole piece and your composition will be whatever you want it to be not what the frame demands.  Of course, custom framing solves that problem.   
  This is a common problem with beginner photographers/artists who try to mat and frame their own stuff. The final piece suffers due to too many compromises along the way.  I know... custom work is expensive but you still want it to look good don't you? Especially if you are trying to sell it.
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« Reply #18 on: August 15, 2005, 08:46:11 PM »
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Off the new topic of frames and mats...

I view the "rules" as guidelines to making visually pleasing, well-balanced images.  So when I'm interested in conveying some other emotion or sense, I break the "visually pleasing/well balanced" rules and use the "(insert other emotion or sense)" rules.  Smiley
Steve that's a really short and concise way of explaining how to break the rules.  I can think of many situations now where breaking teh rules would be effective. Thanks.
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« Reply #19 on: August 15, 2005, 09:02:42 PM »
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My opinion... Rule number 2 is ignore rule number 1 whenever necessary. They are all just guides.

 Now about your sizes. Your problem is that you are trying to fit your stuff into "standard", ready made frames and mat openings. This will almost always fail you in that, as you stated, your images don't fit. Always go for the image first and that will tell you the size frame you need. If you MUST use ready made frames then the matting becomes very important to the finished piece.  What will help you here is to cut the mats so the opposite sides are equal. It provides a balance to the whole piece and your composition will be whatever you want it to be not what the frame demands.  Of course, custom framing solves that problem.   
  This is a common problem with beginner photographers/artists who try to mat and frame their own stuff. The final piece suffers due to too many compromises along the way.  I know... custom work is expensive but you still want it to look good don't you? Especially if you are trying to sell it.
Well, all that is true for sure. But what I am having a hard time accepting is building custom frames for each image to go with the custom sized matting. For one, many people will not want the frame/matting combination and will want to mat and frame it themselves. If they know they ahve to have a custom frame made, that could also blow the deal due to cost. I know locally a custom frame size made of wood along with matting is about 80-100 bucks for an average size frame, say 16 x 20 or one size smaller. That's a lot of money before you even add in the price you want for your photo. Although 150.00 for a 16x20 matted and framed iamge is in the ballpark around my area.

What I have decided to do for now is use my frames and matting, and invest in a rotary cutter so I can cut the excess white space off the paper. Then if I sell the image only, at least it looks printed edge to edge and more professional.

Also, a 16x20 frame witha  10x14 hole leaves 3 inches all around, and it looks nice I think. Same for the 18x24 frame wiht a matting hole of 10x16, which gives 4 inches all around. The effect is at least pleasing.  

However, I will keep an image now that otherwise I may have tossed and if it is exceptional (yeah right) I'll have it custom framed.  So I can use both methods.
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