Camera Format in Landscape Photography

Camera Format in Landscape Photography

  • Most cameras have a natural axis. For example, when you lift a DSLR or 35mm camera to your eye, it feels right to hold it horizontally, so that the horizon runs parallel to the long side of the frame. Turning the camera through 90 degree feels unnatural - it requires an extra effort, and most photographers turn the camera only when faced with landscape subjects that have a pronounced top-to-bottom emphasis - such as tall trees.

  • The dominance of horizontal landscape pictures is further strengthened by photographic jargon. By convention, we call all horizontal pictures "landscape format" and vertical pictures "portrait format". But you will find it best, rather than letting the camera or convention decide whether the pictures should be upright or horizontal, to evaluate every subject on its own merits, and then decide for yourself.

  • The subject matter isn't the only factor that should affect your decision. You should also think about the dynamics of the image, and about the foreground and sky. A horizontal format appears peaceful and stable, and implies tranquility. By comparison, a vertical picture appears more active and unstable. Vertical pictures also include more of the subject above and below the horizon, so turning the camera vertically is a useful way of emphasizing the sky, or subjects of interest on the ground close to the camera.

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