Nick Wiltgen's picture

Thoughts on vertical/portrait oriented images in landscape photography?

Wondering about your thoughts on portrait oriented/vertical images in landscape photography, generally speaking, as well as for this image in particular. Other CC and general feedback on this image always welcome and appreciated too!

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13 Comments

David Medeiros's picture

I think it depends on the subject of course, but I find that I shoot quite a lot of portrait or even square cropped images versus standard landscape apsect. It's a great way to accommodate subjects with strong vertical features. It also allows you to grab more foreground when using a lens that's not otherwise that wide.

I like this composition. Feel like I want to see more of the upper falls though. But I like that you didn't include any sky here.

Alex Armitage's picture

I've been trying to shoot them a lot more often in my work. At first it started as a better orientation for social media but found myself enjoying the print work as well.

Your image is lovely but the balance for me is off. Not sure if you've cropped it already but there is to much weight on the right for me. I'd crop it to be more centered personally.

Nick Wiltgen's picture

Definitely can relate on that front; portrait oriented for social media usually yields better results. I also found myself enjoy them printed. Thank you man, I really appreciate that feedback! That weight is all I can see now, will crop and see what I come up with! Cheers

EL Fan's picture

Subject matter often determines the format.
Do not restrict yourself or format.

Gary Gray's picture

The orientation should be determined by the visual energy of the composition. If your eye moves up and down to explore the scene, portrait aspect is correct. If your eye moves to the left and right, it's a landscape orientation you should use.

Look for the primary leading lines of the scene.

From an economic standpoint, landscape orientations sell better.

Nick Wiltgen's picture

Definitely agree with that! It's relieving to hear these comments. I was told by someone "never shoot a landscape image vertically, especially a sunrise". I was confused by those sentiments. Thanks for sharing your insight!

joseph cole's picture

Absolutely just depends on the composition I’ve even seen people shoot on a diagonal just make sure it works and go with it after all the worst that can happen is that you don’t like it and delete it. I have tried to get into the habit of shooting both orientations just to be safe

Alan Brown's picture

I think the format needs to match the subject and best convey the story you are trying to tell. If in doubt I shoot a scene in both formats - it is hard to tell looking at a small LCD display and I often find that once I start processing my original choice gets overturned. It really depends what you want to include in the frame.

For your submitted image I am finding myself looking at two different pictures, split by the rocks. My eye wants to explore the lower waterfall and those gorgeous rocks at the bottom of the pool, but is being pulled to the top of the frame by the lightness and intrigue of the upper falls.

Even though there is so much interest in the rock pool I think the image would be stronger had you included the (in focus) upper falls. Is there a vantage point that would allow capturing both falls including the pool at the bottom of the first?

I think if you could capture both waterfalls and both pools that would make an awesome image if cropped from the sides to create a vertical letter-box image. the strong/narrow vertical format would convey the power of the falls.

Other than that the rocks in the center are a little over-saturated for my liking. I would make a copy of this image and try cropping from the top to just above the main falls. That would help balance the image and help highlight the lower falls.
Here's a quick edit to show what I mean;

Nick Wiltgen's picture

Hey thanks for all the thoughtful and useful feedback! This is a really strange composition. I was trying something new - seen this falls photographed many times (the actual big falls up top has a great full view from farther back). While I took the typical shots of the falls, I found this little pool and was intrigued by it. I definitely see what you mean though, and I absolutely love this crop you created. Way more balanced. Thank you!

Alan Brown's picture

Thanks Nick, this is a wonderful image in its own right and sometimes it just takes a second set of eyes to provide a different perspective.

I think we all (at least I know I do) get caught up in and the emotional experience we had when creating the shot and it's hard to take a step back and see through the eyes of someone who does not have that connection.

Phillip Breske's picture

Alan Brown nails it again with his suggestion. I'd like to see more of the upper falls instead of just the peek we get here. And a higher vantage point that also includes whatever is just between these rocks and the upper falls would make this a MUCH stronger shot. For me, I like to where the falls land and if there are multiple falls in the shot, I want to see multiple landings. Love the colors and exposure.

As to the general question, I love the look of vertical landscapes if you can handle the focus issues of a very close foreground at the bottom of the frame and a distant background at the top. I also think a vertical print appears bigger on a wall than the same size print of a horizontal shot. Maybe it's because most walls are wider than they are tall and the vertical print occupies a greater percentage of the vertical space on the wall than does a horizontal print? I don't know.

Chris Jablonski's picture

I like this image, specifically including the composition and its degree of asymmetry.

Don't see how it's possible to generalise about image orientation - if you're not sure, use square format! ;-)

Portrait mode suits this scene fine, but with waterfalls I find myself spending hours, varying vantage point, focal length, composition and orientation as over time more possibilities suggest themselves. It takes slow me a while to "get into the zone"; the lesson for me is to allow much more time than seems necessary, to do an inviting scene justice.

Here, I think I'd try a horizontal of just the top cascade where it hits the rocks, if possible, and a close-up portrait image of that little spout into that beautiful foreground pool, etc. I also vary the degree of polarisation - a faint reflection, through which you look into still water, can look good, and perhaps more natural at times.

Good work - an enjoyable image, Nick!

Jordan McChesney's picture

I shoot in vertical most of the time, landscape or not. I feel it works really well for waterfalls, as they are typically an up and down subject, rather than a side to side subject. Looking through my images, I've noticed that pretty much any subject that is vertical, I shoot in vertical. For example, fireworks shoot up, so I shoot vertical, leaves typically hang down, so I shoot vertical, ditto with waterfalls, skytree is basically a 600 meter phallic symbol so I've shot it vertical about 95 % of the time.

On the other hand, Fuji, while tall, is also wide, as is the Rainbow Bridge in Tokyo, so I shot them horizontal.

That being said, there are exceptions, but I hope my choices make sense.

As for this image, I think the vertical format was the best choice, but I feel like the composition is a little off. I think you could have pointed the camera up a little more, to get more of the waterfall rather than the rocks at the bottom. A really nice exposure and contrast, though!