Portrait / Landscape Format

On all cameras that have an image format this doesn’t have an aspect ratio of 1:1 (e.g. 6x6), you have to decide in advance whether the image should be captured in portrait or landscape format. The image format determines the way the image is created.

The landscape format is often used to capture landscape views. Depending on the chosen format, a photograph with the same subject can have a different effect on the observer.

Cinema and television both prove that it is possible to select one format and limit it to one. In photography, it is a good idea to concentrate on just one format sometimes. Particularly if the images are going to be presented by overhead projector or a slide show, as the change from portrait format to landscape format can be distracting. It can also be adapted successfully for web galleries. The website Weltenblicke.de with thousands of landscape formatted images illustrates this impressively.

Limiting oneself to one format can be used as a good photographic exercise. For one day, try taking photos only in landscape format and then the next day only using portrait format. In both cases however; do not avoid typical landscape or portrait format shots. Try to consciously create image despite the aspect ratio being unfamiliar.

The subject on the image below, a coastline in the west of France is at first glance a good candidate for an image in landscape format. Due to the wide angle, the camera’s low position and high set horizon, the stones on the beach come to the forefront of the image. This simultaneously projects vastness and spatial depth. A small diaphragm diameter f-stop (f/16) delivers the required depth of field.

Beach – Brittany – France 2010

The following photo shows the same subject as the previous example. By changing from landscape format to portrait format the effect of spatial depth is heightened. A comparable effect could also be achieved by using a shorter focal length. Both images were captured with a focal length of 24mm.

Beach – Brittany – France 2010

The following subject on the image below is an example to prove that tall subjects don’t necessarily need to be shot using portrait format and wide subjects don’t necessarily need to be shot using landscape format.

High arches span across the railway viaduct Morlaix. The chosen portrait format of the image means the structure’s proportions and height can merely be guessed at.

Viaduct – Morlaix - Brittany – France

Landscape format allows the structure to appear more massive. The way the camera is tilted gives more perspective distortion which captures the structure’s imposing height. Additionally, the clouds are crucial to the image effect as they create the gravitating skywards effect.

Viaduct – Morlaix - Brittany – France 2010

The following images illustrate that format change can perceivably change an image and image details can be added or omitted.

Ruderboot Bretagne

The zebra crossing visible in this image changes the effect of the image perceptively.

Rowing boat - Brittany – France 2010

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