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