15 October, 2010

Vertical vs Horizontal Compositions

Monkey Tip #1 – Khelp with Composition

Khelp. Get it? — You know, cause there’s kelp in the shot? K + Help Equals? Anyone? O well… At least my Cat thought it was funny. Anyway, take a gander at these two images.



Each was shot back to back at the same time of day and also after a half bottle of cheap white wine. A lovely thing about digital photography is that you can shoot all you want with no penalties except for a full hard drive. That being said, there really isn’t any reason why not to try flipping around the camera and trying different compositions. As a photographer, it’s your job to capture the moment and give life to a 2 dimensional representation of 3 dimensional space. It all starts with the content of the shot. What’s the subject? How did you frame it? Is it the best angle and vantage point? Did you remember to take the lens cap off? All these elements factor into a whole way before any post processing occurs. Think about it. You are getting ready to dump hours into / capturing / editing / finishing / re-editing / publishing / a photo. So what’s stopping you from taking different shots and angles to attempt to capture the scene correctly? Make Sense?

More often then not, amateurs don’t turn the camera to compose a vertical shot. Why overlook such a simple thing? It could be that we see the world in a horizontal, wide format. It certainly sounds fathomable. It could also be that we are just not used to doing it or we haven’t had enough practical experience framing shots in the appropriate format. Whats the quick answer to this problem? In this case, it’s flipping the camera vertical and firing off a clean set of 5 exposures. More than that though, it’s experimentation. Trial, error, more trial, and a seriously full hard drive.

Is there a point to all my rambling?

The simplest way to improve at anything is by doing. Period. Do books help? Sure. They certainly can’t hurt. Do tutorials from BlameTheMonkey.com help? Certainly (I couldn’t resist the plug) but with all that reading and learning comes the inevitable requirement of application and practice.

With composition, It’s never an exact science. Even the rules of composition are meant to be broken sometimes. The best method for improvement has always been experimentation.

What’s the best method to get started with the best method?

Use your camera. Carry it everywhere. Shoot multiple angles, find multiple vantage points, try zooming in a bit or changing lenses. Then take all of the different versions and look at them. REALLY look at them. Try and break down which ones worked and which ones did not. Get the opinions of friends and family. Take note of which they like and why. Do they prefer the horizontal or vertical format? Ask them, where their eye travels in the photo or what they think is the subject of the photograph. Compare your feelings with the feedback you are getting. You might notice some similarities. You might get an overall appeal towards one of the compositions. Bingo! Now you are on the way to photographic enlightenment. You found something that worked. Now go do it some more!

About the Author

Elia Locardi is an internationally acclaimed professional travel photographer, writer, public speaker and highly skilled educator who spends his life seeking out and capturing some of the most beautiful and inspirational locations in the world. Recently featured by Professional Photographer Magazine, CNet Australia, and Wacom USA, Elia has cultivated a highly engaged social media following of nearly 3 million people across Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Instagram. On the road full-time, he teaches the Art of Photography here on www.BlameTheMonkey.com, collaborates with various brands, sponsors and tourism boards, and leads Photography Tours and Post-processing Workshops worldwide.

  • Just wanted to say I really am enjoying your website and photography! You have a wonderful sense of humor and a keen eye! Keep up the good work!

    • I’m seriously friending you on facebook – you need more than 19 friends!
      Great shooting and tips!

  • Hi mate,

    I already follow you on FB and Google+ and think your work is amazing.
    Have you ever tried doing a HDR with people in the shot? I would be very interested to hear your thoughts.

    By the way, good luck with the D800. Am waiting for the 5D MKIII 🙂

  • Richard

    Very nice images. I would add that I have to continually fight my dislike for shooting vertically because of the way the images end up being displayed on my computer monitor. Anything shot vertically displays much smaller and doesn’t have the impact as the horizontal images that fill up my entire screen. It makes no sense, but there it is. I try to be aware of this bias and make sure I’m not “forcing” a better vertical composition into a horizontal image.