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Horizontal vs Vertical Photographs – Which is Best

Horizontal vs Vertical Photographs – Which is Best
taking vertical vs horizontal photographs

What is the difference between taking vertical vs horizontal photographs? Which should be the main focus for photographers and how can this have an impact on your work and engagement rate on social media?

When I was recently surfing on Pinterest, and I’ve seen boards of Photographs with outstanding vertical images. Pinterest is well known for hosting vertical images, although other social media and search engines are hosting most of the photographs horizontally.

There are indeed huge differences between them, and I’ve seen loads of freelance photographers shooting only and only horizontally.

But why? I am really wondering why most of the photographers are focusing on this orientation, while rarely you see somebody shooting vertically

In this post, I want to talk more about vertical vs horizontal photographs, niches of photography and which is the best for each, aspect ratio and some other tips.

Vertical vs Horizontal Photographs

Exploring the horizontal images

taking vertical vs horizontal photographs

The horizontal photographs (also known as the landscape format) are images wider than taller. The cameras are designed in the first place to take horizontal photographs, in the same way, that our eyes see the surroundings.

99% of the computer devices, TV, monitors and other large-screen devices, are created to best show the landscape format. Think about your laptop or your TV. If you are viewing a vertical image, all you will see is two black blocks and the image on a lower resolution in the centre in between the blocks.

When the photographs we take and display on our landscape format devices is wider, then the photos can be called to be panoramas. The idea of panoramas is not to be displayed only on screens but in prints, advertisings, banners etc.

What are the main highlighting advantages of taking horizontal photographs

  • Those photographs are native to the human’s eye. 
  • Can be seen on the most desktop devices within the right visual field
  • Can create a panoramic perception 
  • Is conveying a sense of space
  • When the subject is horizontal or moving horizontally 
  • You need that horizontal aspect ratio for a specific project.

When you should not focus on taking horizontal photographs?

  • When the subject should be framed vertically
  • Using on some specific social media where vertical images are required (such as Pinterest)
  • The photography niche you are in benefits more from taking vertical pictures.

Exploring the vertical images

Taking vertical vs horizontal photographs

Vertical photographs are images taller than wider. Also known as portrait format, the vertical images are not so popular as the landscape ones but have some advantages over them.

Mobile phones are the perfect devices to view vertical images. Those can be seen on any other screens, but with limitation on the visual field.

Vertical photos are desired when the subject is taller than wider, and this goes well most of the time with portrait photography.

I should focus on vertical photographs when

  • I want to focus the attention on a subject (such as portrait)
  • When the subject can be framed only vertically
  • Creating a horizontal panoramic view known as vertorama.
  • You need that vertical aspect ratio for a specific project.
  • You use Pinterest to share photography pins,

In portrait photography, there are some advantages to taking vertical photographs instead of horizontal ones. Think about framing the elements in a photo without to move too far from the subject, in order to create a shallower depth of field and bokeh.

Referring to one of the above points, when you are taking a panoramic view, it is the best practice to take multiple photos horizontally and stack them in programs like Lightroom or Photoshop, for the best quality resolution and creating a wider perspective.

By doing this, you can create landscape images of a very high resolution, perfect for very large prints (I have had created images of nearly 100 MegaPixels in size)

I should not focus on taking vertical images when

  • When taking group or landscape photographs
  • When aiming to create advertising with text, using the rule of third.
  • Presenting a portfolio or project on a horizontal device.

In a matter of fact, think about the sense of space and what can you do to fit your subject and the elements in a photograph. What would be the best approach, to shoot horizontally or vertically?

Vertical vs horizontal photographs and social media

According to smartinsight, there are about 3.5 billion people with at least one social media account and over 5.1 billion mobile phone users. The majority of mobile phone users have smartphones with access to the internet.

Out of that number, according to the same researches, there are about 3.2 billion mobile social media users.

Why do you need those statistics for? Let’s think logically here. A mobile phone is a device created to display information vertically, this includes photographs.

As a social media user, the photographs I mostly see on my phone are taken horizontally, and when viewed in full-screen mode, you have to rotate your phone for the best view. But there are images taken and seen vertically on social media, giving you much sense of space and detail when you scroll through your news feed.

Therefore, a photographer with social media access should consider those statistics and that most of the users are viewing your photos from a mobile device.

Let’s have a bit more research here on vertical vs horizontal photographs and social media, specifically the top two of them: Facebook and Instagram

Do you remember just above I’ve mentioned that you can rotate your mobile phone in full-screen mode to see a horizontal photograph in landscape mode? This happens to work only with Facebook as Instagram do not allow you to enter full-screen mode or rotate your phone for a better view of landscape photographs

And to have a little mention here, Instagram is dedicated to mobile phone users, with very little to no use from a computer user. Therefore, for the best display on Instagram, photographers are focusing on vertical photographs.

So, if you are an Instagram photographer and focus more on it than any other profiles or websites, and want to grow your followers base, think about how people interact with a vertical photograph on their mobile devices. Or maybe a square image? but we will talk more about later on this post.

The Aspect Ratio

Understanding the aspect ratio will best help you to understand the difference between vertical and horizontal photographs and what can you do to improve your photography niche in relation to the type of aspect ratio, which will follow shortly.

As this topic is exclusively focusing on vertical vs horizontal photographs, it is most simple to describe them as portrait or landscape formats. But what about the aspect ratio and square photography?

The aspect ratio is a direct relationship of a photograph between its width and height and commonly expressed by two numbers such as 4:3 ratio, which is the standard videographic ratio.

Think about each number as an equal measurement unit, for both width and height of a photograph. When those units are equal, such as 1:1 it means that the image is square. A 4:3 aspect ratio means that 4 equal units are measured horizontally and 3 equal units are measured vertically.

Those both vertical vs horizontal photographs are represented in detail about the aspect ratio of that photo.

Shortly, anything which is wider than taller is considered to be a horizontal photograph or landscape one

Anything which is taller than wider is considered to be a vertical photograph or portrait.

A DSLR camera both the full-frame and APS-C formats (as C comes from the classic format) are delivering an image with the aspect ratio of 3:2, the same format used by a classic 35mm film.

Therefore, our DSLR photographs are of a ratio of 3:2 if taken horizontally or 2:3 vertically.

What about square photography?

When we think about square photography we have to think about cropping an image taken either portrait or landscape mode.

What uses can have a square image?

One reason for creating a square image out from the others is to simplify the composition and to remove the unnecessary elements from a photograph, bringing it to a basic square aspect ratio.

Although on Instagram the horizontal photographs are the worst aspect ratio seen on a mobile device and the vertical ones the best, in combination with the classic computer users who are browsing the Instagram and the majority of the mobile phone users, a square image could be the best balance of the two of them.

Those images represented on the right are just some basic aspect ratio formats and most of those both vertical or horizontal are the standard ones used on the internet, TV, phones etc.

But in photography, you can create unlimited aspect ratios by just cropping your photograph as you wish.

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Taking vertical vs horizontal photographs and photography niches!

As we largely talked about some of the differences and the advantages between vertical and horizontal images and the aspect ratio, now let’s talk a bit about the photography niches and how each image orientation can have a positive or negative impact on it.

Landscape Photography – As it comes with the name, landscape, it is clearly that the best format is horizontal photographs for the landscape. Is it? Or maybe not always. But moreover, vertical images can be used when you create a panorama landscape by taking vertical frames to the scene and attache them in Lightroom.

Landscape photography in some cases can be photographed vertically where you have to emphasize the heigh of the landscape, such as tall mountains and to break down the composition into three main elements: the foreground, midground and the background.

Portrait Photography is a combination of vertical and horizontal photographs – The art of taking portrait photographs is directly related to the model you are shooting, focal length of your lens, the focal distance between you and the subject, and if the body element is cropped (horizontal photos) or it’s a whole (vertical photos). This can be directly related to the photographer’s eye and the vision of taking portrait photography, therefore, it can work as the opposite or just different.

To lead to some interesting shots, in portrait photography shooting vertically to the subject’s face filling in from the edge to edge can emphasize the plain image with no foreground and background.

Fine Art Photography – When we talk about the fine art we talk about the ability to work with photography as being a form of art, to create art with what you see in your mind as an artist and what you photograph, to send a message through photography, emotions, to express creativity.

There is no rule about what aspect ratio you should take as a photographer when related to fine art, therefore, anything will work for sure.

Sports photography – It is one another niche where both vertical and horizontal photographs are considered to be an option. As a photographer, you have to think how would you better frame the subject, the race car or bike, the football player? Think about this and naturally it will come your decision to use both styles in this photography niche.

Framing a race car from ground level will probably work the best in landscape mode, whilst pole vaulting will work for sure with vertical photographs

Wildlife photography – It is mostly dominated by horizontal photographs but in some occasions where you better frame your wildlife subject vertically, the portrait style will work just fine. The reason wildlife photography is taken in landscape mode is that the ability to capture the beauty of the nature althogether with the wildlife (the animal on its own natural habitat)

Being creative with wildlife photography and mastering the composition you can break the unset rules where vertical images are the best complemented where the subject or the scene fit better on a vertical image, therefore vertical photography is another creative way to take some amazing wildlife shots.

Astrophotography – In the case of astrophotography, the photographer has to see how the elements will best fit in the frame both with the foreground and background (the night sky).

As a real example, when you take a photo to a lighthouse and the milky way behind it, in most cases, this will be a vertical photograph, and when you take a landscape (mountains) photographs at night with the milky way, a horizontal image.

Wedding photography – a wedding photographer has to think as a portrait photographer, but customly, there would be group photographs which cannot be taken vertically. It is as well a combination in between vertical vs horizontal photography.

Emphasizing portrait photography, in some cases at a wedding you may have to frame the bride vertically rather than horizontally in some given scenarios. Ensure that you master both styles of photography leaving no rooms for errors when framing the just married guys into the composition.

Drone Photography is probably the only niche in photography where you can shoot only horizontally, being unable to rotate your camera for a vertical capture, therefore, you need to rotate your image or crop for a vertical photograph.

We want to consider vertical drone photography when we shoot leading lines or scenes with leading lines which works the best in a vertical image, such as roads and forests. One another option in the case of drone photography to shoot vertically is to create a vertorama of different horizontal shots.

Taking vertical vs horizontal photographs – A wise conclusion.

The artistic image you see in your mind, the composition you want to create, the elements you need to frame – all of them have only two options on the final result: Either a horizontal photograph or a vertical one.

Sure thing that square photography can be considered too by creating a new balance of the image where the rules of thirds can be ignored for the best results and the artistic image can be freely manifested in an unnatural order of the composition.

Overviewing the differences between vertical vs horizontal photography and the need to create the best format and aspect ratio for our needs, consider the decision of shooting both aspect ratios for your photography niche and aim for the best results to express creativity.

A creative person should experiment with all different formats as he or she experiments with composition, elements, scenes and breaking all the photography rules for an image out of the ordinary.

With pleasure, I say thank you for holding until the end of this post and I hope you will remain with us for more tutorials, tips and guides originally wrote at photornia.com.

Take care my friend and I wish you all the best. Do you want to have a read on some other useful articles?

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What are the advantages or disadvantages of taking vertical vs horizontal photographs when you should focus on a specific one, plus a few extra useful tips.
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