The days of film used to be simple. Undeveloped 35mm film were practically always submitted as the same size and format - 3:2 aspect ratio. Photographers typically get back their printed photos before deciding whether to crop the composition.
Cropping is part and parcel of photography and composition. Good photos leave out distracting or unflattering elements that contribute nothing to the story of the picture. And the process of cropping usually ends up with a picture format that is not quite in the standard aspect ratio one "expects". But guess what? Photographers do it after the fact of printing; the photo labs just deliver the physical photos, and never care what happens thereafter.
Digital photography is changing all that.
With digital photos, photographers are at complete freedom to manipulate their softcopy pictures - including cropping - well before it ever hit the printers. Technology has altered the photo-processing workflow sequence. And it is at this point where i simply need to pen down my beef: too many of these photo labs continue their old-school film practice and re-crop those meticulously cropped photos back to the 3:2 format.
Depending on the composition format, it might not be that bad. But for squarish or very unusual aspect ratios, this can result in disastrous views. Such printers are essentially exhibiting a complete disregard and disrespect for the photographers' composition work. There is absolutely no requirement for a printer to fill every white space of a 3:2 paper photo. It is entirely possible to fit the original composition onto the paper and leave white bands horizontally or vertically by the sides. Yet, why printers default to take it upon themselves to knowing better and recompose into something else? That is like altering the sleeves of a shirt for your size, of which you are not going to wear.
I am sorry to state, but that is really an ultra moronic thing to do in this profession. Actually, i take back my apology. It's not my fault others are nonchalant in this industry. I sure do not want to patronise any of such stores.