All our modern digital cameras have a pre-set format, i.e.. shape, for the photos they take: usually either 3:2 or 4:3 ratio. For the non-mathematical, that can mean something like 4800 x 3600 pixels, or 6000 x 4000 pixels, or something else, depending on your camera’s sensor. What’s interesting is that even though there are often alternatives in the camera menus (like 16:9, 1:1, 4:5, etc) the default shape becomes built in to our thinking when we take photos.
One of the things I like to introduce people to in my photography workshops is that there are no rules when it comes to image shape. We are not limited to the format set by the camera manufacturers and with the various post-processing tools available to photographers, it’s easy to make our images whatever shape we want. The possibilities are endless - great!
Different shapes are everywhere in our day to day photography world. Take Instagram or Facebook - while they can take different formats, the default shape is square. And square is often the preferred shape for aerial photographers (just check out my wall art on the From The Air page). Why? Some say they prefer to crop out the slightly softer corners from some lenses which can detract from a sharp, focussed look, but I think the square has developed into ‘normal’ for an aerial. Personally, I’ve always loved a square, so I’m happy to go with it!
A favourite shape for wall art at home is the panorama - it often fits nicely above things like sofas and bed heads, and allows you to have a large print that isn’t hidden by furniture.
It was not uncommon for painters in past centuries to create round paintings, which a number of photographers have also adopted at times, including me. Of course it’s possible to ignore all the rules and create your own shape using the magic of Photoshop: square, round, or even snow dome!
There are theories about the psychological effect of differently shaped images - a panorama gives us a window into the world as if we’re outside looking in (or inside looking out!), whereas a square, especially a large one, is said to take us into the scene, as if we are really there.
Have you tried different formats for your photos? Do you have a favourite? Leave a comment below…