Advertisement

Archive for Saturday, June 30, 2012

Behind the Lens: Vertical photos endangered, but still ideal for certain shots

When subject matter or movement in a frame is along a vertical axis rather than a horizontal plane, a photographer can fill the space more completely and creatively with a vertical image. This vertical image helps relate the quilt above with the women on the bench beneath.

When subject matter or movement in a frame is along a vertical axis rather than a horizontal plane, a photographer can fill the space more completely and creatively with a vertical image. This vertical image helps relate the quilt above with the women on the bench beneath.

June 30, 2012

Advertisement

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m vertically challenged.

No, it’s not my height that concerns me. It’s more my lack of attention to shooting vertical photographs. But I’m not alone. Cameras are designed for holding in a horizontal position. Rotating for verticals can be awkward. Even our eyes naturally take in a wide field of view parallel to the horizon.

Much of the visual content we absorb daily is delivered on horizontal displays. Televisions, movies, computers and billboards are the most obvious.

I know our staff shoots fewer vertical photographs. The two biggest reasons are because the camera position is so unnatural and we’re influenced by the change in the way our photographs are presented.

With the advent of the Web and online multimedia presentations, the horizontal format rules. When we create slideshows for our website, the available display space is 1280x720 pixels, an extremely horizontal hole. Any vertical image imported into that space will take up barely a third of the frame when displayed at 100 percent. That takes away impact from a photograph and disrupts a sequence of horizontal images.

There is hope for saving the endangered vertical. Tablets and smartphones offer rotating screens to accommodate both vertical and horizontal images. I propose we call these types of devices “horverdexterous” — having the ability to easily display visual content of both horizontal and vertical formats at 100 percent. Maybe one day we’ll have horverdexterous cameras with rotating screens built in.

Of course there is always the alternative square format. Fans of the photo app Hipstamatic can groove on the fact that they don’t have to decide. It’s square, man. Cool. Nothing to consider but the subject in front of you.

But don’t give up on “up-down” pictures, as one editor used to call them. For instance, verticals are ideal for portraits, many landscapes and space-shuttle launches. And then there is one subject that is a gold mine for vertical shots: basketball. Let’s face it: Manning, Chamberlain, T-Rob — they just don’t fit in horizontal frames.

I guess my best advice is to always keep the vertical format in mind when photographing. If there are vertical lines or interesting elements moving up and down within your frame, rotate your camera and explore vertical options. Here’s a verse from Canadian songwriter Fred Eaglesmith extolling the benefits of the vertical format:

“When people take her photograph — just to get her in/

They turn their camera sideways and use a wide-angle lens/

It makes people laugh — but she don’t seem to care/

My baby’s got big hair"

Comments

Paul Decelles 2 years, 5 months ago

Vertical format lends itself to macros because I am often shooting insects which of course are in an environment with lots of vertical forms. But I also tend to tilt my camera at what ever angle works for the scene. After all, shooting macros in the field I rarely have to worry about a horizon.

Doing a quick scan of my images, I'd say about 25% of the time I use a vertical format but I have noticed that some days I am shooting exclusively vertical.

tao7 2 years, 5 months ago

Verticals are great for creating panoramas. I have a great program, ICE, that does everything to create it, just insert the pictures.

nellaelad27 2 years, 5 months ago

As the megapixel format has gotten larger, a vertical photo can be edited from a horizontal one. My digital SLR is 18 megapixel and a single image at 72dpi is 4 feet by 6 feet. That's a lot of space to work with in image editing!

benbusch 2 years, 5 months ago

Human eyes combine two spherical images that are horizontally aligned in order for the brain to construct a three-dimensional "image" of physical reality. The camera generally has one lens which also produces a spherical image. A single image. Both horizontal and vertical formats crop the spherical image in a way that perverts the information produced by the lens. The square format is the simplest and most honest representation of a mechanically produced two-dimensional image.

6x6cm image produced with a Hasselblad camera

6x6cm image produced with a Hasselblad camera by benbusch

George_Braziller 2 years, 5 months ago

I looked through my library of shots and it's about 40% vertical and 60% horizontal. I rarely shoot anything with a square format unless I'm doing it for the stark geometry.

I really don't like a square format because it ignores the peripheral vision and doesn't allow you to explore the image. With a square format you're forced to look at the pre-conceived idea of what should be viewed.

It has it's place, but it's not for me. I think it's rather static and cold.

Paul Decelles 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree with George about the square format. It just is not visually interesting to me.

gr 2 years, 5 months ago

"This vertical image helps relate the quilt above with the women on the bench beneath."

Is "this vertical image" an example of "Any vertical image imported into that space will take up barely a third of the frame when displayed at 100 percent" that has additionally been expanded and cropped off?

Otherwise, looks like a good example of when to use a horizontal shot.

Mike Yoder 2 years, 5 months ago

No, this was't suppose to be an example of that point. But this is a great, but unfortunate example, of how online display spaces and templates favor horizontal images. If we could import that image of the women and quilt in that set display box and run it at 100%, then you'd see how small it would be and how much impact is lost. At least, the cropping works fairly ok on that vertical.

jj14 2 years, 5 months ago

Photo in article looks like a plain 'ol horizontal picture to me. Perhaps a different photo should be used?

gr 2 years, 5 months ago

jj14, if you didn't understand Mike Yoder's explanation, you could click on the photo and maybe that may help.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.