Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

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Exercise – Vertical and horizontal frames


Take 20 shots in vertical format. Review them to look for any similarities in the types of subject chosen. Then take shots of the same 20 subjects in horizontal format. Observe which pictures work better in each format.


Canon PowerShot S100.


I shot all these images in the space of about an hour as I wanted to maintain the shooting conditions (e.g. lighting) for comparison purposes. As instructed, I selected and shot the 20 vertical shots first, and only after reviewing what I’d shot in vertical format did I retrace my route and take the same 20 subjects in horizontal format.


Click on any image to go into slideshow view.

Looking back at the first set (the verticals) before I shot the horizontals, it became apparent that I had mostly sought out subjects that suited the format, such as buildings, trees, statues, various items of street furniture etc. In a few instances I chose subjects that I would have normally defaulted to horizontal but made a conscious decision to shoot vertical first.

  • Some of these (1, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15) suit the vertical format better in my opinion
  • Others (4, 5, 6, 9, 13, 14, 18) seemed to suit horizontal better
  • The remainder (2, 3, 11, 16, 17, 19, 20) looked equally balanced – albeit with a different ‘feel’ – in either format

What I’ve learned:

In this exercise it’s become apparent that some subjects can be much better served by shooting in a vertical format rather than the default horizontal. In my experience on this exercise, this is not simply that the objects themselves are tall/thin as opposed to short/wide, as in some cases a tall/thin subject works well in horizontal format if it is balanced with some other point(s) in the image that provide some context (e.g. 9, 13, 14, 17).

Similarly, some subjects that might initially seem more suited to horizontal, such as a landscape, can benefit from a vertical frame treatment if it helps to accentuate the perceived depth in the image (e.g. in image 10 with the view down the length of a river).

So this is another aspect of composition that I will take into account when framing images in future.