Circles Are the New Squares at Facebook

Facebook has put a fresh coat of paint on its app with an overhaul to some of the graphical elements. One major change of note for photographers is that profile photos that appear alongside comments and in the newsfeed will now be circles instead of squares.

The Facebook app isn’t the first to go with an odd shape for photos. The company’s own Messenger and Instagram apps have tread that ground earlier, as did Twitter.

Why is this important? Like the way cars shaped the entire country by the creation of roads to drive them on, whatever shape is en vogue in social media drives photography.

I was a master’s student in photography in 2009, a year before the birth of Instagram. It was drilled into our heads that a square photo was about as dynamic as a breakfast of buttered toast. When Instagram came along a year later, I was already out in the world teaching my students the same thing.

But then Instagram stuck. Square (digital) photos were here to stay and they weren’t going away. And instead of shunning the square, I embraced it. I worked around it, learned to compose in ways that made squares work. It retrained my brain. Even the once-cardinal sin of square video is now accepted.

Profile pictures across services used the square. It became ubiquitous and easy to compose for.

So, while I feel the same amount of trepidation with more circles being rolled out in the photo world, I've begun to wonder if I have to compose everything with centered composition now? How long is it before the iPhone and other cameras add a circular photo option in addition to the square modes that are now common?

What do you think of circular photos? Do you have any tips on how to take better circular photos? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[via The Verge]

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7 Comments

Karim Hosein's picture

Totally irrelevant to the article, but… paved roads were not invented for the automobile, but for bicycles. Just FYI. Now you know.

chrisrdi's picture

For real? That is interesting indeed.

Karim Hosein's picture

Yep. For the new pneumatic tires invented by Dunlap in 1887 for his son's tricycle. Indeed, the original Michelin Man was made of bicycle tires, not car tires, because there was no such thing as car tires at the time. Pneumatic car tires came about in 1895, after the success of the bicycle.

Even then, bicycles were far more popular, because they were far less expensive, easier and less expensive to maintain, (for those two reasons, were in the hands of the masses, while the automobile was a luxury of the very wealthy), faster, and did not require a man with a flag walking in front of you. ;-) (Okay, that last part seems weird, but was actual true law in some places).

It was Dunlap, Goodyear, and Michelin, who pushed for the creation of paved roads for bicycles.

Andrew Ashley's picture

oh great... forget corner sharpness, now we have to discard corner content... Next thing you know we'll be shooting subjects in round environments. CHECK PLEASE!!!!

alice vaneb's picture

How about instead of an article about Facebook changing the shape of their fu*king thumbnails, we talk about real sh*t that impacts the photography industry? You guys don't seem to shy away from any controversial topics having to do with photography here at Fstoppers, but you do let stuff like this go:

http://gothamist.com/2017/05/01/bh_photo_workers_strike_on_may_day.php#p... /

https://hyperallergic.com/396180/bh-photo-settles-department-of-labor-la...

B&H has been all up in the news for over a year. Never a peep out of you guys.

Paul Scharff's picture

Circles suck. Every time another social media outlet switches to them, I wonder why. I hate not having the corners of my profile pictures showing. I'll just switch to a shot of the moon or a planet, I suppose. Sigh.

Caleb Kerr's picture

We see with our eyes, which are round... coincidence? I THINK NOT.

No but seriously, who cares? The only times round photos are ever used are for icons or thumbnails. IG has round icons for ages.