6 reasons why you should shoot portraits in landscape orientation

Oct 24, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

6 reasons why you should shoot portraits in landscape orientation

Oct 24, 2018

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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I always thought it was interesting that we call vertical shots “portrait” orientation and that horizontal shots are “landscape” – especially as I rarely seem to shoot portraits in “portrait” orientation. But should you shoot portraits in landscape orientation? Photographer Bernie Raffe thinks so and in this video, he offers up six reasons why you should (probably) always shoot portraits in landscape.

Bernie starts off by saying there’s no right or wrong when it comes to camera orientation, and that this is just the way he works. You don’t have to follow his advice, but it might be worth considering if you’re still trying to figure out what type of portraits you like to shoot.

  1. If you’re viewing on a laptop or computer monitor, landscape images just look better when they fill the screen as much as possible
  2. Landscape orientation images can more easily be cropped to portrait than the other way around
  3. It makes for better storytelling
  4. Negative space allows you to give your subject some room within the frame
  5. Going landscape on location to include the environment adds context
  6. Developing a style

I’ve never really thought about how camera orientation has applied to my own portrait photography. I’ve just done what felt right at the time.  Most of my portraits are shot on location, and I typically do them in landscape orientation by default. It’s just what I think often looks best for the scene. I suppose this falls under #5 on Bernie’s list, and perhaps a little of #3. But it’s not something I’m really consciously aware of. It just feels right.

For the rest of the reasons… Well, I’m not so convinced.

I actually do print quite a few of my images, and so the orientation of the shot doesn’t really matter in that instance. I don’t usually crop that much that much, either. Sure, cameras have high megapixels these days and you can get away with a lot, but I just think not getting your composition right when you shoot it is just kind of sloppy. If I’m not sure whether a shot will be better landscape or portrait orientation, I’ll just shoot both.

As far as developing a style… I’m not really sure that I see the aspect ratio of the shot as being part of a style, as a photographer. Perhaps, maybe for a specific project, but for a body of work as a photographer? Not so much.

But Bernie’s video has given me a few things to think about for photographs of subjects that aren’t people. Subjects that I might typically shoot in one orientation or the other by default. I’ll have to start switching things up and experiment.

I mean, why not? Worst case, I don’t like it and I go back to what I was doing before.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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5 responses to “6 reasons why you should shoot portraits in landscape orientation”

  1. Richard Doktor Avatar
    Richard Doktor

    “Portraits,” as I understand them, means mainly making a picture of a person’s face. And this happens _always_ in portrait format.
    I wouldn’t see pictures that show much more than the face as “real” portraits. And with this kind of images it’s essentially about choosing the format that best supports the situation or the story. For some it can be landscape, for some it can be portrait.

    Cutting landscape images to portrait format is in principle a bad idea (not only because of the loss of quality) and falls into the same category as the unspeakable “crop for composition”.
    Yes, there are cameras with extremely many megapixels, but first of all not everyone has them and secondly it is still a loss of information, which is unnecessary, if you would have made the image straight correct.
    Trimming an image to correct small details is certainly okay. But if the cropping is done to fundamentally change the image itself or its statement, then the image has already been made wrong in the first place = mistake of the photographer.

    In the end I see no reason to use only the landscape format. It is more important to know which orientation is best for the scene and then take the photo in this way.

  2. rifki syahputra Avatar
    rifki syahputra

    landscape orientation in 4:3 ratio is nice

  3. Hans Van Avatar
    Hans Van

    I think you have a very good point, I use both a lot in my photography and its all based on what type of photo, point of view etc i am trying to put across. This can also be heavily client influence in the way you take the photographs and what they like.

  4. Clichey Avatar
    Clichey

    I would probably shoot more landscape portraits if Instagram did not exist. :(

  5. Doug g Avatar
    Doug g

    Maybe 10-15 years ago landscape would be the way to go, but today 75% of media is viewed on a cell phone. Portrait orientation is by far better in today’s world for pretty much every situation. I shoot for FashionNova and they never once hit me back with “do you think you could send us some shots in landscape orientation”. Now for certain shots there’s nothing wrong with switching to landscape, but it shouldn’t be the primary orientation. Unless your shot is being used for a billboard or a website wallpaper there’s no benefit.