What is portrait orientation
Beginning photographers usually take pictures with the camera held horizontally.
Vertical orientation is usually used when photographing a portrait since it allows excluding empty space on the right and left of the person being photographed from the frame. It also helps focus the viewer’s attention on the main subject. In addition, when taking full-body photos, the verticality of the human figure itself requires such an orientation of the frame.
But there is no such rule that cannot be broken – sometimes portrait format is used when shooting a landscape! With the right scene, choosing this orientation can produce a very expressive shot. When we look at a vertical photo, our gaze usually moves from the bottom to the top. Therefore, the vertical orientation of the image is ideal when we need to emphasize the height of objects such as trees or buildings.
Moreover, vertical orientation is best if you plan to post photos on social media platforms. The aspect ratio also plays a significant role in this, because different ratios are ideal for various platforms, for example, Instagram welcomes a 4:5 aspect ratio.
What is landscape orientation
Usually, the horizontal format of shots is more suitable for landscape photography. This orientation of the picture corresponds to our perception, as we are more accustomed to viewing the space around us in the horizontal direction.
In a photo stretched in a horizontal direction, it is easier to emphasize the breadth of space. In addition, if there is a moving object in the frame, the horizontal layout of the photo allows you to leave more room for the intended movement of the object, which enhances the dynamics of the shot.
A similar dynamics sometimes comes across in portrait shots but it is lost due to composition. To fix it, you can make a portrait photo landscape during editing and crop all the unnecessary details.
The horizontal format of the picture should also be used when there are a lot of objects and details scattered in the horizontal plane in the frame and you want to cover them all. For example, when photographing still life, a landscape view is usually used.
Landscape or portrait: orientation decision
To turn the camera correctly, you first need to understand that the orientation of the picture is not entirely about the subject, but rather about the composition. Therefore, it is quite possible to shoot people horizontally. These shots are especially successful if the person is shot in profile and looking at something outside the frame, or if you have a great background that complements the main subject and creates atmosphere.
Horizontal compositions are closer to the natural perception of our vision, they make it possible to see details, to convey movement or a specific context. Therefore, they are great not only for landscapes, where the horizon line serves as a clear reference point, but also for any other genres.
This is also true for vertical shots, which, on the contrary, focus on the subject because the frame borders cut off almost all the remaining free space. The position of the photo should enhance its composition, so street photography and cityscapes, due to the abundance of vertical guides (pillars, houses, sidewalks, etc.), often look better in the portrait orientation.
If you’re not sure that you can choose the proper orientation right away, just take two shots, one vertical and one horizontal. If possible, you can also take photos on both camera and phone. You will need to manually set the settings on the camera, as phones often have separate presets for portrait and landscape modes. It can help you switch modes on the spot when you have no time to change the camera settings. In addition, some phones, like iPhone models, have a grid with a variety of aspect ratios to choose from.