Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 11, No. 5, 2012
  Current Issue  
  Back Issues  
Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Louis René Beres
Samuel Burd
Daniel Charchuk
Andrée Lafontaine
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque Denis Beaumont Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward




In photography, one has the easy choice of shooting a vertical or landscape frame. It might not seem a matter of any consequence – a picture is a picture. In some cases, one or the other format immediately suggests itself. While a scene can be framed either way, there is often a preference since portrait orientation produces a very different effect than a photograph pictured in landscape. Choosing one or the other however, is not a trivial matter.

The portrait is most often used when shooting people. It also lends itself to trees, flowers, and photographing creatures such as giraffes and tree monkeys. The most obvious reason is that these sorts of things are vertical beings and portrait orientation is an excellent way of capturing them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that landscape orientation is unfit for photographing people; it just means that portrait orientation seems more natural.

As a way of focusing on a subject, the general difference between portrait and landscape orientation is that portrait is more akin to poetry while landscape is more like prose, more ‘odyssaic.’

Portrait orientation captures a narrower frame and so concentrates its composition more tightly and simply. The story told in portrait orientation is direct and simple. It offers a delimited description or account about an especially focused element. Sometimes, it is much simpler to frame a portrait than in landscape. I think it is interesting to consider the two in terms of their difference in emotional and intellectual maturity.

Landscape is more expansive. It tells a more complex story and includes more elements related to the story all aimed at providing a larger reference for contemplation. The more experience we have will result in more frames of references from our life experience, the net effect of which will increase the opportunities for an inspired photograph. The more we see and understand the more we want to reveal.

There is no getting around the fact that landscape photography is compositionally more challenging than portraiture because there are more elements to frame. One has to be very careful that all of the more numerous components in the frame act to reveal the scene as powerfully and convincingly as possible and that there are no extraneous elements intruding into the photograph. The complexity in a portrait frame is not less challenging or -- it is a different story, a different intent.

In the portrait and landscape examples below, the difference between the two are significant. Different moods and stories emerge. How we frame depends on what we see and the story we want to tell.

The portrait version:

The scene here is quite gentle. Two people are in kayaks enjoying a serene excursion down a waterway. On shore there are people jogging and walking leisurely on the pathway. The greenery is civilized and manicured and there are large apartment buildings housing at least a thousand people. A reflection of one of the buildings stretches close to the kayakers. Altogether a scene of a relaxing Sunday afternoon in civilized nature.


The landscape version:

This is a completely different experience. The water way stretches far more broadly and more extensively in this picture adding to the insignificance of the kayakers. The trees on the right hand frame add a sense of the wild and untamed to the picture and they obscure the distant reaches of the waterway adding a sense of the unknown, of mystery to the area towards which the kayakers are travelling. There is a reflection of trees in the water ahead of the kayakers that is larger than the reflection stretched along the water of the apartment building and it waits further downstream from them toward the unknown distances. This reflection catches the wildness, however apparently trivial, of the trees in the right-hand of the frame.

In the portrait scene, all is casual and leisurely; in the landscape orientation the scene is more compelling and mysterious and vaguely threatening.

This is a trivial example, but I think it helps to illustrate that the framing we use has an important effect on what we reveal. Often we respond automatically to a scene we want to capture. In such cases, perhaps in all cases, we may want to try framing our shots in both portrait and landscape modes to discover narratives we may not have immediately imagined.



Email Address
(not required)


BENEFIT CONCERT FOR HAITI, SALLE GESU, JAN. 20TH (Papa Groove, Ariane Moffatt, Bïa, Kodiak, Echo Kalypso, Doriane Fabrig (ex-Dobacaracol), Claude Lamothe, Ian Kelly, Pépé: Box-office 514.861.4036 = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
2011 Festival Nouveau Cinema de Montreal, Oct. 12-23st, (514) 844-2172
Montreal World Film Festival = shared webhosting, dedicated servers, development/consulting, no down time/top security, exceptional prices
Film Ratings Page of Sylvain Richard, film critic at Arts & Opinion - Montreal
CINEMANIA(Montreal) - festival de films francophone 1-11 novembre, Cinema Imperial info@514-878-0082: featuring Bernard Tavernier
Montreal Jazz Festival
Montreal Guitar Show July 2-4th (Sylvain Luc etc.). border=
CD Dignity by John Lavery available by e-mail: - 10$ + 3$ shipping.
© Roberto Romei Rotondo
The Centre de répit Philou is a private not-for-profit, charitable organization that welcomes physically disabled children
Listing + Ratings of films from festivals, art houses, indie
Photo by David Lieber:
Canadian Tire Repair Scam [2211 boul Roland-Therrien, Longueuil] = documents-proofs
Available Ad Space
Valid HTML 4.01!
Privacy Statement Contact Info
Copyright 2002 Robert J. Lewis