As a refresher from my previous posts on composition in photography, composition refers to how the elements in the frame are constructed and arranged to result in the desired final image.  You will often hear people speak of the “rules” of composition and a set way of composing an image in order for it to be considered visually appealing.  My stance on the rules is that as long as you are aware of them and able to follow them you are not required to follow them.  Photography is an art that is open to the interpretation of both the photographer and the viewer.

The “rules” around when to compose a photograph with a vertical layout versus a horizontal layout center around the composition of the subject itself.  It is often rather obvious which way to turn your camera based on the general layout of the subject.  The subject dictates the orientation in many cases.  However, the final decision is up to you as the photographer and your interpretation of the scene and how you want to present the final image may contradict what the subject commands.  This is where you have the luxury of trying it both ways and often achieving a completely different look just with a turn of the camera.

The two images below are of Cathedral Rock in Sedona Arizona.  The top photograph, taken with a horizontal orientation, tends to push the main subject back further as it brings in more of the vegetation to the sides and the stream in the foreground.  This is a great way for setting the scene and telling the whole story of the subject and its surroundings.

Example of horizontal composition in photography

This image was taken with a vertical orientation.  The resulting photograph has the main subject filling more of the frame from left to right and therefore appearing more as a central focal point.  The foreground is still dominated by the stream and allows for the “story” of the subjects surroundings to be told.

Example of vertical composition in photography

As a rule of thumb, tall subjects that are vertical in nature dictate a vertical camera orientation while wide subjects that spread from left to right dictate a horizontal camera orientation.  Use that as a guide when deciding what will work best for your subjects.  But use your gut and artistic instinct as the final decision maker.

1 Response to “Photography 101 – Composition in Photography – Horizontal vs. Vertical”

  1. Feature Friday: Composition » Sanae James Photography-Upstate South Carolina wedding, family, children, high school senior photography

    on September 16 2011

    […] There’s lots of guidelines and rules (i.e.  leading lines, diagonals, frame within a frame, horizontal vs. vertical, pattern, texture, shape, color, […]

Comment RSS · TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Name: (Required)

E-mail: (Required)