Are You Street Photographers Afraid To Shoot Sideways?

November 5, 2013 — 10 Comments

I follow the continuing work from a lot of street photographers on the ‘net and I’ve noticed, by far, the dominant orientation is landscape.

I also frequent gallery spaces and exhibitions and the street photography in these spaces doesn’t have a bias for orientation.


For a while now I have been mulling this over I am inclined to believe, for the less experienced photographers, this is a comfort zone issue.

Disregarding the aged compositional rules favouring portrait the more formal orientation and landscape the serene and distant cousin, the decision between the two should really be more related to scale and mood.

Reading Material

Personally, I remain constantly aware of surroundings and context. In the example, above, the railings and steps draw the gaze to the man who might well be reflecting on his book purchases. The framing would be lost in a horizontal scene.

The orientation choice for the top image was purely down to scale. I spotted the phone covering the man’s eyes as he persisted his own gaze to a photograph. I literally couldn’t convey the busy scene without the portrait orientation which, in this case, is all the more immediate and ‘in the scene’.

The reflection image below seems most natural in a vertical format. There’s an intimacy about the couple. The reflection, the lamp post, railings and foliage, draw the gaze up and down so that, maybe two or three times, your eyes fall upon the couple. Were this scene to have more to the left and/or right, you might not connect with these two at all.

Stories From The Southbank

Shooting portrait is a bold move and requires confidence; you are effectively widening your focal length and cropping your scene, but your street photography can be massively rewarded.

Landscape is not the ignoble twin, but portrait certainly isn’t as stuffy and formal as the old rules might have you believe.


10 responses to Are You Street Photographers Afraid To Shoot Sideways?


    Interesting. I shoot portrait format very often, even when shooting landscape. It´s really hard for me to shoot landscape format because portrait orientation seems more naturally to me. Seems to be different for most other photographers…


    Well said. Michael. I occasionally devote a whole dive to portrait format images, just to make me think about the possibilities. Sadly, I think that the projected image format works against the photographer. Computers, TV screens, projector screens & many on-line formats favour the landscape format. So too do camera ergonomics. But not the Nikon D4, which is beautifully designed to put the shutter and other critical controls under the same fingers when you swing it through 90 degrees. What a shame underwater housings do not mirror the excellent design!


    I addition to what you have said, a square format would work nicely for the last image.


    Nice images! I like the bloke covering his eyes with his phone….it looks like he’s ‘redacting’ himself! Well spotted!

    I think though that as far as orientation goes, people tend to mentally tune in to a format. People just get used to landscape format because it’s the most natural position to place the camera.when you first place it the eye. I suppose it means missed opportunities, but as long as the composition is strong and works for the format, then you will still get good photographs.

    I am a mixture of both, but probably mostly landscape, but I always try to photograph intuitively.

    Anyway…nice well thought out photos.


      Thanks for liking and commenting!

      As Paul, above already mentioned, camera and monitor ergonomics favour landscape, so I can imagine some do feel more comfortable with this. I don’t know any seasoned photographers who’d pass up a shot just because they had to hold the camera sideways but maybe some don’t ‘see’ those scenes as readily as a horizontal frame.

      I just looked over your gallery Tony and you’re absolutely right, even though you’d be forgiven for always shooting landscape. *Very* nice gallery.


    I am so pleased I found your wonderful blog, such a joy to walk through your streets of London in both landscape and portrait. The above photos look so naturally at ease and at home within their frames. Beautiful shots!


    I use portrait orientation a lot on the street and to a great extent it depends on the circumstances in which a particular shot is taken.
    Sometimes you are faced with an immediate, take it now or miss it situation in which case I make the shot any way I can. However for most shots there is a period of consideration available in which to visualise how I want the shot to look and decide on the simplest way to achieve it, a decision that will include choosing landscape or portrait.

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