Vertical Viewpoints

Sadly, many photographers take only horizontal pictures. They always lift their cameras and shoot. Their pictures are all landscape views, pictures that are wider than they are tall.

These photographers are missing some great opportunities.

Although most people know that cameras can be turned sideways, many people never do it. They feel awkward or they just don’t think about it. This awkwardness disappears with practice, and the practice can yield rich rewards.

Certain pictures are greatly improved if the camera is turned to create a portrait view, a picture that is taller than it is wide. In most cases, the subject is vertical.

Consider these pictures of the same dog. In order to fit both the dog and the ball in the landscape view, the photographer had to step back a bit. This mean that furniture legs and sofa parts found their way into the image.

Is this OK?

Simply turning the camera on its side solves that problem. Now the dog and ball fill the frame and make a more pleasing composition.


Yes, you can crop a horizontal picture to eliminate the background, but you lose pixels when you do this. A far better choice is to fill the frame with the subject when you first shoot. This is true whether you’re taking pictures of a dog, a person, a doorway, or a plant.

milkweed pod2

Often, your subject itself suggests how you should hold the camera. But that suggestion may produce only the obvious shot, as opposed to the interesting one. Try turning your camera on a regular basis. Take vertical pictures every time you spend more than a minute or two with a subject. By changing the direction of the camera, you may get a fresh view of a subject, and sometimes that view is more interesting than your original one.

By Elizabeth West

I'm a person who loves both words and images. A writer by profession, I'm a passionate photographer in my free time. I do not see the arts as a competitive activity, since no two people would ever create the same work even if they had the same subject. I welcome comments and suggestions from all.


  1. Totally agree with you – most people don’t turn their camera about but it can make all the difference.

    When shooting from the hip holding the camera in a vertical position works very well, especially to capture the full vertical height of the person in front of you when your camera’s viewpoint might not be tall enough to capture the scene horizontally.

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