Snap Chat. Landscape or Portrait ?

Surfer. Landscape.

I’m going to start posting a regular discussion about photography, and call it Snap Chat.  However, unlike it’s better-known namesake, the posts aren’t going to disappear after a matter of seconds.

I will talk about handy photography tips, stuff I’ve worked out on my own, or something I’m finding challenging.  As I don’t have a lot of time to spend on post-production, I try and take the photograph correctly in the frame without relying on cleaning it up afterward. Of course, it’s not always possible. But I think it’s a good habit.

If you are a frequent reader of our posts, you’ll know that I like taking pictures of people or animals “doing their thing”. One of the bits of constructive criticism I was told recently, is that I take too many pictures in portrait format when I should do it in landscape. I need to give the person space to move within the composition and I need to give them context. The space also provides a story.

Portrait format is more suitable if you only want to capture the object and nothing else.

You can see the difference in the space between the two Hawaiian surfer images. When I was sitting on the beach, the thing that caught my eye was the surfboard pattern. That was what I wanted, and the sea provided the context. The portrait picture includes the horizon and the sky, but doesn’t give a lot of space to the surfboard even though it dominates the composition. What do you think?

One last thing. It is, of course, a rule of thumb. And rules can be broken when you know how to. Besides, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes there just isn’t a right answer.

Any thoughts on landscape vs portrait?

~ Spotted Cow

Surfer. Portrait.


12 thoughts on “Snap Chat. Landscape or Portrait ?

  1. This is such an interesting conversation as I am just the opposite of you – I am so much more comfortable shooting in landscape, and have to remind myself that portrait actually exists. But as Jaime says, it absolutely depends on what you’re shooting. Perhaps my eye is just drawn more to horizontal scenes than vertical. In any event, I LOVE your idea of the Snap Chat. Looking forward to more such posts. This first one is great! And the surfer pictures are wonderful, though as you can guess, I prefer the landscape orientation on this one 🙂

    1. I prefer the landscape format on this one as well. You take more landscape or cityscape pictures than I do, so it makes sense that your default is to use landscape mode. Thanks for being supportive of Snap Chat. When I started with photography, people threw at me lots of technical stuff. Really, what I had to learn was how to take a good picture … and that was a LONG time coming.

  2. Cool, I look forward to reading more tips from you. I tend to take the majority of my photographs in portrait but can see a HUGE difference in the two photographs above NOW that you’ve pointed it out. Good to know before we head off on vacation next week-end. Twelve days and counting, woo hoo! 🙂

    1. Woo hoo! Vacation. I’m envious and I look forward to hearing about it. I’ve been reviewing my holiday photos to keep me going till Christmas ! I plan to write up useful tips that everyone with any camera can use and not get too bogged down with camera technicals.

      1. Sounds good. If you have an easy way of remembering ANYTHING about apertures and shutter speeds I’m all ears (or eyes in this case, lol)! 🙂

      2. I’ll try my damned-est to put it into layman’s language … largely because I am self-taught and I could never remember when it was when there was lots of light flooding through, and when there was very little. I had to work out what it all meant practically when you need it to be instinctive … like when a nun is riding by on a bicycle, for example !

  3. This is a very interesting point, as well as an important fact to take into account when composing a shot. As you opened the discussion, I say that the format to choose depends on the elements present in the composition. Besides the needed space for the subject’s look (or action), we have to pay particular attention to lines, shapes, and orientation. As in this case, for example, the landscape format is what best suits because all the lines, especially the main one, which is the line in the middle of the board, make the reading of the image to be horizontally. On the other hand, the subject is moving towards one side what definitely makes you look the same direction. So, in summary, looking at this photo, your eyes naturally seek to move from right to left; you can not forced them to look up/ downwards.

    1. Hi Jaime, you are absolutely right and that is very well thought out on the analysis. I guess it all comes with practice and quick thinking. In this instance, I only managed two shots of the surfer before other people got in the way and messed up my composition !

  4. For me, I shoot my candids almost entirely in landscape mode, because I am in front of them and it doesn’t attract attention. To hold the camera in front of someone in portrait mode automatically makes people look at you and the stealth factor disappears.

    But I use portrait often when not doing candids.

    1. You should write a post on stealth! But what you say totally makes sense. After I was told of my “bad” habit, I spent two days forcing myself to take photographs only in landscape. It’s amazing that I had to be conscious of it, given – as you’ve pointed out – that it’s the default position of holding a camera.

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