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Idle thoughts 5 ? Landscape, portrait, square crop

mrswoolybill

I make no great claims for my photography. But I do try very hard not to be boring.
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Idle thoughts 5 Landscape, portrait, square crop

12 Jan 2015 1:21PM   Views : 769 Unique : 523

More things that we say frequently in the Critique Gallery. This is the first of three closely related items, and I'm moving into an area that I am passionately interested in. Composition in its broadest sense how we construct an image.

I've read estimates that 95% of all photographs are taken as horizontal, landscape, compositions. It's the comfortable way to hold a camera and it echoes the way that we will scan a horizon with our eyes. But it's worth remembering the alternative, portrait format, and the crop possibilities.

Landscape and portrait work entirely differently. Both 'tell' the viewer how the image should be read landscape naturally leads the eye to explore horizontally, from left to right; portrait leads the eye upwards through the frame.

Landscape needs a sense of development across the frame, but also a balance between the two sides, and the satisfying sense of a full stop when we get to the end of the story. Portrait can be much more interesting it needs a sense of progression up through the frame but, for example, it can get away with a much greater contrast in light between the two sides.

The choice may not be obvious. Take sunset shots for example. Something that gets said a lot in the CG is that only a very strong sunset will work in isolation as a pure abstract. Almost always a sunset needs a baseline to hold it together a silhouetted horizon whether of roofs, trees, whatever. Most sunsets are taken as landscapes but the effect very often is that the eye is drawn along the horizon view rather than up into the sky. A portrait composition, with a dark silhouette at the bottom and the strata of the colours and cloud streaks above, can be more evocative because it leads the eye up through those strata.

Now take a tall, narrow subject such as a tower well portrait seems the obvious choice, doesn't it? But the result can easily look like a pencil standing on its end, in grave danger of toppling over. Landscape, allowing the tower a stable horizontal base, can be much more effective.

And then there's my favourite crop square. It doesn't prescribe any route for the viewer to follow through the frame, it allows the eye to bounce around freely. Which is why it works for abstracts.

Square also gives a contained, concise feel. By direct comparison landscape compositions can look sprawling, flabby.

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