Fun Photo Friday — Using Portrait Orientation for Landscape Shots

Okay, quick:  Which picture has the most visual impact?  This one?


Or this one?Rome133

How about this next example.  Do you prefer the traditional landscape orientation of this shot?


Or the unique perspective provided by this one?


Both pair of comparative examples above portray the same subject.  The first shot in each example uses the traditional landscape orientation, in which the camera is held in the normal manner so as to provide a horizontally favored composition.  The latter shot in both examples were taken with the camera rotated 90° in what is normally referred to as a portrait orientation.

It’s really a shame that we’ve come to label these two orientations “landscape” and “portrait,” because such labels really inhibit creativity in both novice and experienced photographer alike.  Far too many people miss a potentially award-winning composition by sticking to landscape orientation for all landscapes and saving portrait orientation for only those times when they’re creating memories of Little Johnnie or their cat George.  Yet utilizing so-called “portrait” orientation can frequently provide far more visual impact and esthetic interest than “landscape” ever will.

For instance, landscape orientation might give you an impressive shot such as this:


But let’s face facts.  Landscape orientation certainly won’t give you a Blow-It-Up-And-Hang-It-On-The-Wall worthy shot such as this:

KLM over Maho Beach

In the above example, the portrait orientation provides not only great negative space, but allows much more leeway in utilizing the often ignored but critically important Rule of Thirds.

So if you really want to enhance the composition of you photographic subjects, forget the label “portrait” and start using this orientation for what it really is — a forgotten, seldom-used, subject-enhancing orientation that could really ramp up your photographic artistry.

Photographic composition is a difficult talent to develop.  It takes time, lots of practice and experimentation, and the ability to mentally visualize how a subject will look in different, often nontraditional ways.  The Rule of Thirds helps in developing this talent, but so too does the simple act of merely rotating your camera on edge and retaking a shot you just took in landscape orientation.  Do both and you’ll find more often than not that you’re keeping the portrait orientations and deleting the shot taken in landscape.

So next time you’re out and about taking landscapes, try both orientations and play around with the compositions in each.  Remember to use the Rule of Thirds as much as feasible unless the subject would be somehow enhanced by foregoing that method.

Do all that and you might wind up with some real keepers:



Filed under Photography, travel

5 responses to “Fun Photo Friday — Using Portrait Orientation for Landscape Shots

  1. Beautiful! It looks like a lot of fun. Loved the Colosseum!

  2. Great shots as always, Doug.

    I’m always amazed how many people won’t consider shooting anything other than landscape orientation. My uncle is one of them. Says that the portrait orientation photos look “wrong” on his PC and TV (“You know you can rotate them, right?”)

    Finally – and this is relevant for indie authors – a good portrait orientation photo can also make a great book cover.

    • Far too many are more concerned with how a photo looks on a landscape-oriented monitor than the actual aesthetics, composition, and artistic value of the shot itself. Personally, I’m more concerned with how a shot is going to look if I decide to make a poster out of it, for that is the one true criteria someone should use to judge the “value” of a particular shot — if it isn’t “poster worthy,” then it isn’t art.

      And you’re so right about the importance of a good portrait orientation shot for use as a book cover. Perhaps I should have recommended to those unused to using portrait orientation for landscapes that they should picture in their mind how the shot would look as a book cover. That’s a really great suggestion, Cora.

  3. KidazzleInk

    Thanks for this timely and helpful tip. I too must admit I can be guilty of falling into that landscape orientation trap! I’m now going to try taking the same picture using different orientations. That will no doubt be more interesting than having 4 photos all exactly the same! Then I can choose the one I like the best. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Pingback: The Doors, Windows, and Roofs (and No Other Stuff) | R. Doug Wicker — Author