Make the best choice for every shot.
The orientation of any image can transform the emotions of a photo, from playful or intimate to dramatic or detached. But while a horizontal image for landscape photography or a vertical subject in an upright portrait shot might seem natural, image orientation isn’t always intuitive.
Most cameras — whether they’re smartphones or DSLR cameras — only capture rectangular pictures, so you only have two options. Discover how, given the options of landscape orientation or vertical format, you can select the right approach for the best shot.
The difference between landscape and portrait orientation.
Landscape images align with the horizon line. The photo is wider than it is tall, to capture the vastness of a natural setting. This view is landscape orientation or horizontal orientation. Your TV screen is an example of landscape mode.
Portrait photography often uses a vertical orientation to capture an entire person or subject, or to place emphasis on a subject, as in a close-up head-and-shoulders headshot. Photos are taller than they are wide in portrait orientation. By default, smartphones display in portrait orientation.
Typically, subjects with strong vertical orientations — like people, tall buildings, and waterfalls — work best in a portrait orientation, while scenery like a mountain range displays best in a horizontal orientation. However, scenery and people can be captured with either portrait format or landscape format. The primary considerations are your style, how you will use the image, and what you want to convey to the viewer.
Consider how you will use the image.
You’ll want to know where an image will appear prior to photographing that busy toddler, creampuff vintage car, or towering skyscraper. Different applications often call for either a portrait orientation or landscape orientation.
For example, if you’re posting to Instagram, or many other scrolling-based online image viewing sites and platforms, shoot in portrait format. If it’s a website banner for a desktop browser, landscape orientation is an obvious choice. However, for the mobile version of that same website, portrait images would be a better fit. Here are some general guidelines.