Best 3 Reasons to Shoot Vertical Aspect Landscapes and 6 Tips on How to Shoot Them

The majority of landscape images are photographed in the horizontal aspect. I guess this because the horizontal format approximates the way in which we perceive ‘reality.’ However landscapes look stunning in the vertical format and often the unique characteristics of the upright format suit a scene better than a horizontal* composition. I am guilty of undershooting verticals these days, primarily for commercial reasons, but in any given shooting situation I try to remind myself to seek both a vertical and a horizontal composition from a scene.

Here’s why I think you should photograph vertically and some quick tips for successful upright image making.

Reason One: Verticals are Easy to Learn

Vertical composition using a wide angle or ultra-wide lens is the fast track to making interesting landscape images. My first successful landscapes were all vertical compositions where I found a moderately photogenic foreground object and used this to lead into the greater scene. To this day I find it easier to frame up an interesting sunset in the vertical format. I use rocks, grasses, flowers – just about anything with form to introduce the viewer’s eye to the scene.

Moraine Lake, Alberta Canada (1997). Nikon F601, Nikkor 24mm, f/16, (shutter speed unknown), Fuji Velvia and most importantly, Lee 3 stop GND filter. This was the first image that I ever made that actually turned out how I thought it would! Note that foreground elements don't have to be spectacular to work, they just have to be well arranged in the frame and complement the rest of the scene. When I was learning, I found it easier to eliminate foreground distractions and make a 'tight' composition in the vertical format. As a result, I shot far too many verticals in my early days and very few good horizontal images...

Moraine Lake, Alberta Canada (1997). Nikon F601, Nikkor 24mm, f/16, (shutter speed unknown), Fuji Velvia and most importantly, Lee 3 stop GND filter. This was the first image that I ever made that actually turned out how I thought it would! Note that foreground elements don’t have to be spectacular to work, they just have to be well arranged in the frame and complement the rest of the scene. When I was learning, I found it easier to eliminate foreground distractions and make a ‘tight’ composition in the vertical format. As a result, I shot far too many verticals in my early days and very few good horizontal images…

Reason Two: Vertical Compositions can be more Dynamic

In this dPS blog post, I explained the principles of ‘dynamic landscape compositions’. What I didn’t reveal in that article (for some inexplicable reason) was that vertical compositions can often accentuate the dynamic qualities of an image – particularly when using an ultra-wide lens.

The Clutha River at Alexandra (it's not wonky, the bridge slopes downhill...). Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX, Marumi Polarizer. 12 mm, f/11, 1/13th, ISO100. The vertical format accentuated the leading lines present in the foreground rocks. Getting low and tilting down on an ultra-wide lens distorts and extends the perceived length of leading lines in the foreground.

The Clutha River at Alexandra (it’s not wonky, the bridge slopes downhill…). Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX, Marumi Polarizer. 12 mm, f/11, 1/13th, ISO100. The vertical format accentuated the leading lines present in the foreground rocks. Getting low and tilting down on an ultra-wide lens distorts and extends the perceived length of leading lines in the foreground.

The Clutha River at Alexandra (the bridge still slopes downhill – I promise!). Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX, Marumi Polarizer. 12 mm, f/11, 1/13th, ISO100. When shooting horizontally, the bridge and trees would not be in frame if we used the same camera angles and proximity that were applied in the vertical format. In this case I had to step back and recompose to include everything, which reduced the dynamic impact of the rocks.

The Clutha River at Alexandra (the bridge still slopes downhill – I promise!). Nikon D7000, Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX, Marumi Polarizer. 12 mm, f/11, 1/13th, ISO100. When shooting horizontally, the bridge and trees would not be in frame if we used the same camera angles and proximity that were applied in the vertical format. In this case I had to step back and recompose to include everything, which reduced the dynamic impact of the rocks.

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