FRAMING OR CROPPING A SHOT: HORIZONTAL OR VERTICAL?
We become so accustomed to holding our cameras horizontally that we often forget that turning the camera sideways and shooting a vertical photo is an option. There is a natural predisposition to the horizontal format, but there are plenty of times when it is a good idea to try a vertical composition.
When you are framing up an image – or when you are cropping it later on – consider the shape of the most eye-catching feature in the picture. Does it (mostly) lead the eye left-right, or up-down?
Notice that in my photo of the White Winged Fairy Wren, even though there is a vertical star-picket in the shot, the bird and the wire it is sitting on are on a much more horizontal line. I have composed my photo horizontally to work with those features. However the parrot below is a very vertical feature, so I have made a vertical shot out of it.
Note that photographers often call the horizontal format ‘Landscape’ and the vertical format ‘Portrait.’ But don’t be fooled into thinking all your portraits need to be vertical and all your landscapes need to be horizontal.
This portrait shows the model facing directly toward the camera. Her shoulders are very square on, and notice also the waves in the background – even though out of focus – create horizontal shapes. So I have composed the image horizontally.
However in photo below, the entire image is composed around the model’s body. By eliminating the horizontal features of the landscape, the main shape in this photo is vertical so it lends itself to a vertical composition. Notice also that she has angled her body away from the camera so her shoulders are no longer square.
And here are a couple of landscape images shot in ‘portrait’ format, simply because I am building my composition around the shapes within the image.
The moral of this story: don’t just look at your subject or background for what they are. See them for the lines and shapes they create. Because that is what you are really building your composition around.