Saturday, 9 June 2007

Upright is still all right!

I like photography. It's not been a long time since I realised it, maybe 3 or 4 years, but since then I find myself quite often looking at things through a camera lens, sometimes a real one, most of the times the one in my head. I would say that I am what is now called a prosumer, not really a professional, but certainly more than a normal consumer. I find this is a stupid portmanteau word by the way.

My interest in photography began with my first digital camera. At first, like most people do, I shot trillions of photos, not really worrying about the results. You can delete if it's no good! My problem was that I didn't: I ended up with tons of boring albums, at least two hundred pictures on each, showing the world how fine our half-day excursion was. With the time I started reading books and articles, and especially looking at good photographs, and the topic became one of my passions. I try now to pay attention to the rule of thirds, the depth of field and so on before shooting. Living in a wonderfully photogenic country like Austria is just too good.

Apart from making me a hobby photographer, the advent of digital photography has had another side effect. Most of the people do not print their copies in paper any more. Pictures are viewed on the computer screen. And screens have a landscape format: width is greater than height. But when you place your camera vertically and shoot, height is greater than width and you have the portrait format (also called upright or panel format). With a paper copy that's not a big deal: you just rotate the paper 90º when viewing the picture. But rotating your computer or TV screen might not be that easy (although some computer monitors do allow such a rotation! Coooool!). When a portrait photograph is viewed on a landscape screen, plenty of unused room is left on both sides.

I have met some people who cannot live with that unused space on the screen and therefore shoot absolutely all photographs in a landscape format. Sadly enough, one of them is my own father, himself a hobby photographer when he was younger. I deplore such practice resolutely. I think some photographs are meant to be portrait, and shooting them in a landscape orientation is hurting them.

If you shoot a meant-to-be-upright photograph in a landscape format, because you are concerned about the lost space in your screen, well, I am quite sure that you will end up having too much or too few in your picture. One of the things that I learned is that in photography, less tends to be more. The fewer things appearing in your picture, the more interesting they will look. Reciprocally, the more things appearing in your picture, the more you are loosing your viewer's attention.

Of course, some pictures are meant to be landscape. I have nothing against landscape format at all. Each one of the formats can evoke very different feelings. A landscape format photograph tends to transmit peace and recreation. A portrait photograph can transmit highness and spirituality. Some say the horizontal line belongs to Nature, the vertical line belongs to mankind.

So, the next time that you are about to take a photograph, ask yourself some questions (first of all, what do you want to take a picture of?), try to look through the viewfinder as if you were seeing the actual paper copy and, of course, do not fear placing your camera in an upright position if your heart asks you to do so!


maria said...

Me ha encantado tu articulo sobre la fotografia, porque no te abres una cuenta con flick, esta es la mia por si quieres echarle un vistazo:



Tonicito said...

Maria: He estado visitando tus fotos en flickr y me gustan mucho, sobretodo los retratos y las lámparas. Voy a ver si me abro una cuenta y veo cómo funciona!