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Shoot Wide / Landscape and Crop to Portrait or Square Aspect Ratio (Photography and Social Media Tips)

Article and photography by Tdot Studio member Paul Flynn aka @to_shots

It’s important to capture your images and save your work at high resolution, even if the final destination is social media, which is very much a low res medium. As a photographer, I prefer to shoot in landscape mode, which is more natural to me. I can then post landscape images online to my website or Flickr, and optionally post portrait crop images to social media such as Instagram.

Do you shoot in landscape or portrait? What orientation images do you share to social? In this post I’ll explain my process and share examples.

Example 1: King Streetcar Long Exposure at St. James Cathedral

Look at the following two images. At left is the portrait crop and at right is the original wide aspect ratio shot. To capture the street scene, and lateral movement the camera was placed in landscape orientation aka wide aspect ratio.

However to optimize the impact for social media, the image was cropped portrait aspect ratio for Instagram.

This particular image is strong and effective in both orientations, though arguably the wide / landscape aspect ratio image is superior. What do you think?

Cameras Offer Crazy Megapixels of Resolution

As cameras become more advanced and manufacturers release higher and higher megapixels, I’ve changed the way I typically shoot over the years. I currently shoot raw with Nikon Z7, a 45.7 megapixel camera, which means the files are extremely large and quality is fantastic.

I used to shoot both horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait), but these days I prefer to shoot horizontal 90% of the time. The reason is simple: I envision my photos to be printed horizontally.

I also shoot video and time-lapse photography for broadcast TV, which requires the subject to be framed horizontally, also most of the action is moving left to right or right to left.

Considering Composition for Instagram

Since I photograph this way, I also think about what might look good cropped vertically (4:5) for Instagram, which I find is more pleasing as it fills more real estate in the app.

I’ll also crop an image if a client prefers a print in a vertical or square format, you shouldn’t notice a loss in quality unless you’re enlarging it to a billboard sized image.

That being said the 10% of the time that I shoot vertical is if I can’t fit a scene or building into my frame; If there’s too much dead space on the sides of a scene or if the motion of the subject is moving up and down.

Cropping your Instagram portrait images from a large landscape aspect ratio shot is a good approach to shooting and editing / photo by the author @to_shots

Shoot Wide and Portrait and Compose for the Crop

The benefits of shooting wide, in terms of commercial photography potential and the ability to use the images for print or broadcast should be enough to convince you that shooting landscape/ horizontal is very worthwhile.

At the least, while composing your shots, keep alternate aspect ratios and crops in mind so you can have versatility later in editing, selling and sharing your work.

Example 2: Winter Runner

Notes by Editor: Keeping in mind these are low resolution images, it is interesting to judge them on the effect they have with crop at 4×5 portrait aspect ratio and original 3×2 landscape aspect ratio. Viewed on a smartphone in an app like Instagram, the portrait image will satisfyingly fill the screen. However if you can rotate your screen as you would be able to viewing on Flickr or the author’s website, it is likely the wide image would be a richer experience. One benefit of cropping portrait is it really does focus the eye on the subject, which is the runner on the path.

Example 3: Canada Life Building

Notes by Editor: In this image the cropping really focuses the eye on the building, but even more so than the winter runner image, I miss the tree and blossoms. Perhaps the asymmetry of the foliage is more important in this example?

I do not know the focal length of this image but this is one example where I would also like to see a portrait aspect ratio image of the same scene, as I’m sure it would include more of the brown brick building in front of the Canada Life Building (the building in the foreground is Osgoode Hall).

Example 4: Toronto Island Airport (Billy Bishop)

In this shot, because of the airplane which takes up quite a bit of the horizontal area, it is impossible to crop portrait so I created a square aspect ratio version. Going square is a nice alternative since it includes more of the landscape aspect original subject matter.

Admittedly I find that this image, perhaps more than in the previous images, really demands to be seen in landcape format. This may be because we know the plane at take off or landing, is traversing horizontally and therefore including more of the horizontal is of benefit to the final image.

Furthermore, with a moving subject like this, it would be difficult to capture the action in portrait mode. Hence, landscape is definitely the right approach for both the initial shot and the final edited image.

What do you think?

Have you considered how you hold your camera and what final aspect your images will be viewed? Many people shooting with phones and viewing inside Instagram have put portrait top of mind – but there are valid arguments to be made that shooting primarily in landscape and then cropping to square or portrait is actually most practical.

On a related note, we also find that if you have a large image, it is also possible to crop a landscape image out of a portrait image. This means that centring your subject plays a big role in shooting and editing. 😀

However you approach it, consider versatility and maximum cross-platform and format use. If you don’t shoot in landscape aspect you may miss some opportunities with your selling or distributing your images.

Further Reading: You may be interested in our previous post about best aspect ratios for social media.

Credits

Writing and photography by Paul Flynn aka @to_shots

View wide aspect original ratio images by the photographer at Flickr

Additional writing and production by Mike Simpson aka @mikesimpson.ms

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