No Matter What Shape Your Image’s In

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I strongly believe that the camera you use and the way that you use it determines the format or shape of the final image. You need look no further than the hundreds of YouTube videos shot using a vertical format—the shape of a smartphone—despite the fact that every TV show or movie the maker has ever seen in their entire life is horizontal.

I was having coffee with professional photographer and all around good guy Barry Staver last week and we were talking about his new Panasonic Lumix GH5 when he told me that as he shoots more video for his clients he’s also shooting more still images using a horizontal format. The most surprising part of our conversation was that, more often then not, his portraits are delivered to clients in a square format because social media and many websites now show headshots as squares.

Back in the film days, when I got my first medium format camera, a Mamiya C33 TLR, it made photographs using the classic 6×6 cm square format and to tell the truth I never thought much about it at the time. I happily made many thousands of images with that camera as I also did later when I switched to a Hasselblad 500CM, another square format camera. The legendary photographer Ernst Wildi, who wrote the insightful book Master Composition Guide for Digital Photographers, came at his approach from the perspective of a lifetime of using a square format Hasselblad.

The specs for Ashley Hannah’s above portrait are: Backdrop was a 5×7-foot Photo Grey Savage Infinity vinyl background. Lighting was my usual combination of Paul C Buff’s Alien Bees and DigiBees. Camera was a Panasonic Lumix GH4 with G Vario 14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 45mm and an exposure of 1/125 sec and f/8 and ISO 200. Slightly tweaked in Photoshop with the Glamour Glow filter in Color Efex Pro.

The shape of your photographs boils down to its aspect ratio (see my post on my old blog on this subject) and these days most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras let you shoot in-camera usin ratios from 3:2, 4:5, 4:3 and yes 1:1 aka square. So the next time you’re making a portrait, set the camera in 1:1 mode and see if you like the results. You can always shoot in RAW+JPEG mode and still have the full frame image available for use from the RAW file, as seen be the comparison at left in ON1 Photo RAW 2018, the perfect alternative to subscription-averse photographers.

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Master Composition Guide for Digital Photographers is available from Amazon for $24.93, with used copies selling for less than three bucks making this the photography how-to book deal of the century. And if you’re interested in learning how to shoot better portraits and want some hands-on training, check out my one-on-one workshops.