How big is a 4×6 photo?

Alex Cook's photo

By Alex Cook

A standard 4×6 photo is basically as it sounds: 4 inches by 6 inches. However, there are definitely some caveats.

Cropping digital photos to fit a 4×6 print

Nearly all modern phone cameras like the iPhone and Android take photos that are a different shape than a 4×6 photo. This means that in most cases, the top, bottom, left or right (or all edges) of your photo has to be cut off in order to make it fit on a 4×6 print.

This idea of a photo’s shape is technically known as its aspect ratio or ratio. The aspect ratio of a 4×6 photo is 3:2.

Photo of a medium-format image of a woman sitting in a baby blue dress on the front of a 1950s car in front of a sign reading "LOUIS A. COOK — The Country Auctioneer."
Preparing photos for print by cropping has been a problem for a long time. Compare this original, medium-format photo of my grandmother taken in 1950, scanned from a negative vs. the digitally cropped 4×6 photo. (I colorized the photo in 2018.)

Why did faces get cut out of the edges of my photos!? 🤨

There’s a major gotcha when printing 4×6 photos: Nearly all photo printers cut off an additional 3 millimeters (~0.12 inches) from around the perimeter of your image. This happens at both Walgreens and CVS. This is something that isn’t disclosed when uploading your photo and cropping it on their interfaces, either. It happens when the photo is printed and cut! It’s never fun to show up at Walgreens and see everyone’s faces cut off of your photos, which you swear you painstakingly cropped before sending them to print. In general, it’s best to make sure faces and other important objects aren’t close to the edges of your image.

Photo of a medium-format image of a woman sitting in a baby blue dress on the front of a 1950s car in front of a sign reading "LOUIS A. COOK — The Country Auctioneer." with red borders around it to demonstrate cropping.
Once a 4×6 photo is sent to print, the majority of printers cut an additional 3 millimeters off, the border shown here in red.

New 4×4 format

In recent years, photo printers have started supporting 4×4 square prints which are 4″x4″. These are a super cool new format that makes it easy to print your Instagram photos.