Playing with Orientation

In Digital, How to

In an effort to stretch my creative muscles, I’ve been playing with the way I frame photographs lately.  Generally, I shoot with a horizontal orientation.  It’s the way my eye sees, and I feel it suits a documentary style of storytelling (which is reflective of my style).  It feels natural to me to see the world in this (horizontal) way.

But what if I turn my camera and shoot in portrait mode?  What if, instead of framing everything horizontally, I look at things vertically?  It seems a small matter and, really, it is.  A quarter turn of the camera.  So simple.  And yet, that quarter turn can subtly (or not so subtly) change the entire feeling of an image.

It’s not to say that one way is better than the other.  For sure, there are instances when horizontal better suits a subject, and vice versa.  Often, with careful framing, the photographer can make either work.  If you take the time to consider each way of framing a subject, it’s quite fun to play with making an image work in both orientations.  It’s one of those things that can feel subtle and dramatic at the same time.

In addition to playing with vertical framing, I also cropped my final images in a 4:5 (or 5:4) ratio.  Here’s an example of the image I started with, shot in a horizontal 3:2 ratio.

Now here’s that same image, cropped to 5:4.  That ratio tightens up the rectangle a little.  It’s still rectangular, but feels more akin to the comfort (and evenness) of a square for me.  It feels slightly more intimate.

And now here’s the image, shot in portrait mode and cropped 4:5.  Very different to my eye, but nice as well.  While I rarely like my vertical images in a 2:3 ratio (for my style of photography), I rather like them with a 4:5 ratio.  That pushing-in of the edges brings the viewer a little closer to my subject, which is often my intent.

I’m curious what orientation you generally use in your photography…horizontal or vertical?  And I’m curious if you’ll think about making that quarter turn every now and then, in either direction.  It’s a wonderful exercise to look at things from a slightly different perspective –  literally and figuratively.  I hope you’ll give it a try.







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