Shooting Horizontal vs. Vertical Images: A Helpful Guide

There are so many things that you have to bear in mind as a photographer that is taking a photo of something. You have to think about the light, the composition, the exposure, the distance and a lot of other stuff. Yes, getting an outstanding picture is a tough job.

However, there is yet another thing that you have to take into consideration while capturing the moment. Would you want to depict it horizontally or vertically? Are there situations when it’s right to shoot solemnly horizontal images? And what about vertical shots? Is it even possible to take photographs only in one position throughout your whole career? Or is it the combination of the two that really works?

Let’s figure that out!

What Are the Main Differences Between Horizontal and Vertical Images?

horizontal shot

In a nutshell, if you shoot a vertical photograph it is taller. While a horizontal image is wider.

They say that human vision is horizontal. Our eyes see the world a bit wider rather than taller. Moreover, if you think about it, our eyes are more used to moving from the left to the right and vice versa (while reading, for example). By the way, laptops and TVs are also made like horizontal moving images, so we are simply more used to seeing the world from a horizontal perspective. And that’s the main reason why a lot of photographers tend to favor these kinds of shots.

vertical shot

When it comes to the technical part of the question, basically, all you have to do to shoot a vertical photograph – is to turn on your camera. But this part can become a problem, if you are a photographer that works with a tripod, for example. It might seem like sometimes you just don’t have a choice and that’s why you, as a photographer in that situation will only take horizontal images.

However, you can always find a tripod which head allows tilting the actual camera. Or, if you are really into photography, you might want to invest in an L-plate for your camera.

There certainly are situations when it’s better to take a vertical shot. Just like there are times when a horizontal photograph can work better.

When to Shoot Horizontal Images?

Shoot Horizontal Images

Without a doubt, horizontal images are more common than vertical pictures. The truth is that the camera is simply designed to take horizontal shots. Because if you are willing to take a vertical one, you would have to tilt the device one way or another.

Certainly, there are times when taking a horizontal image would be more preferable.

  • To Create a Sense of Space/Air/Movement

Here is the deal with vertical images – the frame is tighter and sometimes it might feel like the subject is trapped inside it. While horizontal images can give more freedom to your subject. If you are taking a shot of a landscape, a horizontal photograph will help you show the scale of what you are seeing in front of you.

If you are taking a picture of a person, for example, the horizontal image would leave the subject with more space around it. The figure would feel more free, even if you are taking a close-up. By the way, simply because a horizontal frame would be able to capture much more surrounding space, you can play with different emotions. Try placing a small subject in the middle and leave enough space around it – your viewer will get a sense of loneliness from the image.

sense of loneliness

We all understand that photography is all about putting our three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional paper or screen. But with the help of horizontal images, you can create a sense of movement. Simply because the subject will have enough space around it, the viewer might assume that your subject is moving.

Another trick that you can use if you are shooting people – ask them to look to the side. This will create a sense that there is something else present outside of the frame. And you will make the viewer follow the subject’s glance. Isn’t that what the majority of photographers is striving for? To create an emotional or even a physical interaction between the image and the viewer?

  • Shoot Horizontal Images, in Case the Subject Is Horizontal.

This one is pretty obvious. If the subject that you are shooting is wide and not that tall, then leave your camera in a horizontal position to get the whole subject into the frame.

  • Horizontal Images Help Understand the Context

You might have already figured out that you can simply find more room for details if you are shooting horizontally. Vertical images would certainly help ensure that your subject is the star. But horizontal images have the power to tell the subject’s story through the other little things that get captured inside the frame.

We would get to see the surrounding landscape, what the subject is doing, maybe even what exact period of time or era it is… Only your creativity is the limit. In such a case, your image is truly worth more than a thousand words.

When to Shoot Vertical Images?

Shoot Vertical Images

  • Shoot Vertical Images, in Case the Subject Is Vertical

Yep, this one goes without saying. Our world does not have solemnly horizontal objects. Moreover, there are times when a horizontal subject can become vertical. That can happen when you start walking on a bridge, for example. It is better to continue the line and take a vertical image.

  • Vertical Images Help Focus the Viewer’s Attention

When you shoot this type of image, usually, one single subject takes up the whole frame. And that might be exactly what you want. Vertical images are great for portrait shooting, for example. With the help of this technique, you will practically get rid of the viewer’s peripheral vision and narrow down the zone in which his eyes have to focus. And that is an extremely powerful trick.

  • With Vertical Images You Allow Your Subject to Move Vertically

The truth is that you can create a sense of movement even in vertical images. But only in the case when your subject is moving up and down. Bear in mind that everything that is moving towards you, the photographer, or away is also a subject moving up and down. Taking a vertical image when someone is walking away will elevate the concept and bring feelings to the image. Moreover, you’d be creating an illusion that there is something else above or under the frame.

walking away

  • You Might Be Taking Vertical Images for Practical Reasons

Various publications in magazines, for example, make our eyes go up and down and they are perceived vertically. And if you are a photographer who wants to work for print media, then you should consider taking vertical images. No matter how good a horizontal photograph is, it will never make it to the cover. Maybe, only its cropped version. But then you might end up losing the main message hidden behind your image.

Horizontal images can be featured in the press, but we should all agree that an image that takes up the whole page looks so much more powerful and appealing.

Is It Better to Shoot Horizontal or Vertical Images?

Horizontal vs Vertical

Of course, it is practically impossible to say which way of shooting is better. Every technique has its own pros and cons. Moreover, one might be more preferable than the other in certain types of photography and situations.

Horizontal images are usually richer in details and it is easier for a viewer to appreciate them. However, vertical images are amazing for portraits or in case you want to become a photographer that is published in the press.

Let’s say that if you want to become an outstanding photographer, you have to understand how to shoot both, vertical and horizontal images. By the way, even if you suppose that a horizontal frame would certainly work better in one particular situation, try shooting the scene vertically as well. The chances are high that you would be surprised at how wonderful and totally different the image turned out to be.

A photographer’s job is to limit the attention of the viewer with the help of the frame. You decide what you want to put in it and what role every element has to play. Vertical and horizontal images would certainly have an absolutely different vibe to them, so always remember about the message that you want to transfer through your photography.

Now you know when to shoot horizontal images and when to shoot vertical images. It’s impossible to say what’s the best way of shooting but bear in mind that it might be a bit easier to begin with shooting horizontal images. After all, only a professional that knows exactly what he wants to showcase in the image would want to push the field of vision of the photograph to its limits, right?

Related: Basic Tips For Taking Good Photographs

Shooting Horizontal vs. Vertical Images: A Helpful Guide

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