No Matter What Shape Your Image’s In

by | Feb 19, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In)” is an instrumental composition recorded in 1965 by The T-Bones and released as a single the same year.

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 that the person who shot that video 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 Panasonic Lumix GH5. I have been thinking about getting one and prices for the camera right now are low, but alas they are still not free. Barry told me that as he shoots more video for his clients with his GH5 he’s also shooting more still images using a horizontal format. The most surprising part of our conversation was that, more often then not, these portraits are delivered to clients using a square format because social media and many websites now show people’s 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 6x6cm 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 shooting with 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.


How I made this shot: 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. Image was retouched and slightly tweaked in Photoshop with the Glamour Glow filter that’s part of Color Efex Pro.



The shape of your photographs boils down to its aspect ratio (see my post on this subject) and these days most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras let you shoot in-camera using ratios from 3:2, 4:5, 4:3 and yes 1:1 aka square that I used in Ashley Hannah’s portrait above.

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, the perfect image enhancement alternative to software subscription-averse photographers.


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Master Composition Guide for Digital Photographers is available from Amazon for $19.24, with used copies selling for less than three bucks making this the photography how-to book deal of the century.