When you see someone walking towards you,
you automatically ‘cut out’ most of the surroundings and focus on that
person. Photographically, you get the same effect by turning the camera
round and using the vertical format.
Occasionally a horizontal portrait works really well but most are
weakened by a landscape composition that leaves the naturally upright
human figure flanked by empty spaces or cluttered background detail.
And if you put a vertical subject in a horizontal format there’s a
danger of chopping bits off top and bottom, which looks awful.
You can fill the frame much more easily with a vertical rectangle and
because of this, it is often called portrait format.
Like all upright subjects, the human figure is naturally suited to a
vertical format. If you're not including the full figure, however,
avoid using the knees or waist as cut-off points. A head and shoulders
portrait usually works best in a vertical format. It's much easier to
fill the frame with the subject and leave out distracting background
However, portraits in a horizontal format, done in the right way would
have the immediate impact of the unusual. If you are to try using
horizontal format for portrait, it’s especially important that you make
strong use of the entire frame – with no unwanted expanses on either
Some tips and guidelines for you to
decide how to shoot:
Ask yourself what you want the subject to
Look at it horizontally
Look at it vertically
Shoot it both ways and compare the
Keep looking at photos - your own
pictures, those in newspapers, magazine and books – and ask yourself if
that's the format you would have chosen.