Photography: vertical vs horizontal, how to know?

Ever wondered why some photos are shot in horizontal (landscape mode) and others in vertical (portrait mode)? I know I have. In fact, I used to think it may be a random choice. If you want to fit a person from head to toe, then you choose vertical and if you make a photo of a sunset, then you choose horizontal.

I did a quick google, just to see what the top answer is. It’s this:

In photography, landscape format, when the image is wider than it is tall, is perfect for the majority of landscape photographs. However, portrait format creates a picture that is taller than it is wide. … You’ll automatically know which format, landscape or portrait, is best before you bring the camera to your eye.

Sure, the examples apply perfectly fine but sometimes the scene is not that straightforward. There’s couple of things to consider.

First thing is to look for the vertical and horizontal lines in the scene. E.g. strong horizontal lines give you the hint to shoot in horizontal and vice versa. Landscapes vs tall buildings.

Luxembourg, 2019

Second, ask yourself what do you want to emphasize. There might be a really strong horizontal line but if your subject forms a vertical line, then you might choose vertical instead. Because you want to emphasize or separate your subject.

Luxembourg, 2019

There is no rule. Yes, it can be a thing of a feeling, but there’s a bit more to that.

The point of this article was to simply show you the bigger picture. That it might not always be a matter of a feeling or a random choice.

For me it’s a matter of a feeling, but since I now know this, I might consciously search the vertical and horizontal lines before taking the picture. Better yet, it’s always a good idea to not only take as many photos of a scene as possible, but also change between landscape and portrait modes. Later you can pick the best one.

E.g. regarding the photo above. I think it maybe would’ve been even better had I shot it in portrait mode as there is a very strong vertical line between the two ladies. And instead including both of them, just include the lady on the right.

That’s that. Hopefully you got some ideas.

KRISTJAN