Composition Talk – Horizontal Vs. Vertical orientation
Ever been out and about shooting random stuff and not feeling overly inspired? It happens to all of us. I was out walking this last March after the snow had all melted along my usual walking path, searching for an image that would embody some thoughts about composition. I would not consider this a perfect image by any means, but rather an illustrative one for this article. I shot it at ISO 100, with a 17-40 mm lens at 40 mm. I am drawn to this scene because of the stream. I like the lines of the water as it moves through the frame, however with the horizontal framing, there are a lot of distractions taking the viewer’s eye away from the water. The house on the top of the hill is not the first thing I am drawn to when viewing this image, but it becomes a player in the overall composition too quickly for me. I find the fence a bit distracting for me as well and I am not fond of the brown grass, although it does work with the bare trees. Looking at the Composition, the rule of thirds is followed here, with the water, the house and the group of trees on the right side of the water. The Rule of Thirds divides a frame into three rows and three columns of equal size, resulting in 1:1:1 vertically and 1:1:1 horizontally. However, I am more drawn to The Fibonacci Spiral (this image is a reversed spiral but still adheres to the golden ratio.) If you want a whole more more information about the Golden Ratio you should check out the article on Live Science here . Regardless of the method you use, think about the composition of your image as you are shooting it. What I like to do is spend time getting a shot the way I want it to look, then once I have found the angle I was looking for or framed the subject the way I am happy with, I immediately move to a vertical orientation and shoot the same scene vertically. Often, I have found the vertical image to be more visually pleasing, or stronger in terms of composition than the horizontal one. In this particular case, I prefer the vertical orientation (or portrait) shot because I feel it adds more interest to the image in several ways. First, the emphasis on the house on the hill is reduced as it is obscured by the trees in the middle of the composition. Second, since the water in the foreground takes up a larger percentage of the frame, it elevates its importance in terms of subject matter, which is what I was looking for in the original composition when I came upon the scene. Third, I think the blue in the sky is more pronounced in the vertical composition than the horizontal, which again is what I was looking for when I started shooting this location.
So which is better? Like any artistic endeavor the answer is, it depends. It really depends on what you were going after, what you saw when you started shooting the location, what your vision for the image was when you took that first shot. Something in a scene makes you stop and decide to raise the camera to your eye, as the artist it is up to you to decide how you want to share your vision with others. Some may think it is a cop out, but shooting in both horizontal and vertical orientations is something I do all the time, the shot I like best most times is horizontal but often the vertical will show the elements of the frame in a different ratio which is what I am looking for.
Get out there and take some pictures!