8 tips to thinking vertical

Now this may seem a simple but it is surprising how many people don’t do it.

Many new to photography will look at a scene, point the camera at it, look through the rectangular view finder (or back of the screen on the new cameras) and take a photo.  When you get home you may realise there is something similar about all the images. They are all horizontal.

The design of cameras has encouraged us to hold the camera horizontally.  They have the button on top to make it easy to press.  But this naturally means many will not think what the image may look like if they change their camera vertically.

At a basic level it is often better to take tall objects (such as a tall tree, waterfall or building) vertically to emphasise its height.  Portraits are a good example where often a vertical position will give a good frame to the person.  But there are lots of other reasons why a vertical image may be more appropriate.

So next time you are out think about the following tips:

TIP 1: If you want to emphasis height try taking both a horizontal and vertical shot and see what you like better. 

TIP 2: Verticals can work really well in landscape photos especially if you have a wide angle lens.  You can get the foreground in as well as the horizon and sky giving real depth to your image.

TIP 3: Many of us are more used to panoramic photos now that our smart phones can take these easily.  But have you thought about a vertical panoramic photo?


TIP 4: Think about where you most often show your images. Web is heading towards a horizontal world with wider screens occurring every day.  But your feeds to things such as facebook scroll vertically on your phone.  If all else fails you could try a square crop.

TIP 5: You also don’t have to be restricted to horizontal or vertical.  Sometimes taking an image at an angle can be dramatic enhancing a line or shape or give the image drama.

TIP 6: Crop later.  It is often better if you can to get your image right in camera first, but there is also the option of using software to crop photos later on.  You don’t have to be restricted to the standard.  It is interesting to think that we are still using the same aspect ratio (length:height) to when the first 35mm film was developed in the 1890’s. Luckily with post cropping tools you don’t have to be locked in to this shape.

TIP 7: Work out which way to turn the camera vertical to be able to have a good hold while still being able to press the shutter.  Practice is always the best so if you find that most of your photos are shot horizontally go and spend a day and only take vertical shots.  Alternatively every shot you take horizontally also take a vertical one. 

TIP 8: When you get back home have a look at your photos and work out what looks better.  In order to learn ask yourself:

  • why does one image looks better than the other?
  • Have a look at any leading lines.  Do they go vertical or horizontal? 
  • How does this impact on the decision to go vertical or horizontal?
  • Does one allow the eyes of focus in the object better?
  • Does a vertical give more drama and a horizontal image seem calmer?


Practice the above tip and you may be surprised how you begin to see the world in a different perspective.