Does the Square Aspect Ratio Carry More Baggage?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Norman 202, Feb 24, 2018.

  1. I think each format has both plus and minus. One of the big plusses of square format is you don't have to worry about frame orientation so you don't have to adjust your camera for aspect ratio. I'm not sure what you mean by compositional expectations. Each format poses different challenges me thinks.
  2. One advantage with my camera is that I'm shooting RAW + JPEG. So while the view and jpeg comes out as 16:9, the RAW image is larger in 4:3. I have additional, but unseen in the viewfinder, head and leg room in the RAW that will allow me 4:3 or to move the 16:9 up or down when I get to cropping it at home if I use the RAW. So I can move the 16:9 up and down as well or just use the 4:3 if I want.

    I use to do TV slide shows in 4:3 but I didn't like when I mixed 16:9 videos clips. So I made a decision to do everything on vacation in 16:9. I also made a decision to only use horizontal format as portrait views look lost on a TV show. It's often a challenge to get shots in such a wide format like 16:9. But movies companies shoot in wider CinemaScope and seem to do OK.
  3. Fred, thanks for sharing that info. I'm thinking about doing a book too. Can I ask who you used and did you like the way it came out? Any recommendations?
  4. Fred, I'm not planning on selling commercially. Just a couple of copies i can keep or give to a friend or family member.
  5. Alan, I used BLURB. Their software and interface were very easy to work with. I opted not to use one of their templates and, instead, designed it myself, though I kept the design relatively simple. When I had questions, I emailed them and they were answered clearly. I spoke to them on the phone once or twice. It was hard getting through, but once I did, again, they were helpful. My only complaint was that I felt the photos were over-inked and, even though I checked the box for them NOT to do any enhancements, the colors came out a bit over-saturated. If you use them, once you sign up, you should start getting emails with various discounts. I've never paid full price to make an order, because it seems like every other month, they offer between 30 and 50 per cent discounts. I did a hard-cover book with a book jacket, which looks very nice, and used the 8x10 landscape format, with premium paper (which was a little heavier stock and much nicer than their default paper and not much extra cost).

    I'm probably going to do another book in the next year or so, and am going to ask around and try a different company, not because I wasn't satisfied but just to see if there's much difference. I'm willing to pay a little more this time, because this one will be just for me and I won't be doing a big run.
  6. Loxley Colour (based in Scotland) has a fine art book option. I haven't tried it yet but I think it's better quality than Blurb. It comes in a presentation box which is nice.

    Fine Art Book | Loxley Colour
  7. I've found it "different" to compose within a square but I was also using a TLR, so everything's in reverse. I don't believe there are higher expectations. I don't think it's harder to compose in a square. The concept is the same: "resolve" a scene so that it fits in a way that pleases (or angers) the eye :D
  8. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    Thanks, All good stuff.

    I got a bit sidetracked with Ed’s comment about TLRs using square because it’s difficult to change the orientation on them so I looked into why TLRs were designed like they were. Then I thought about the mathematics (aesthetics, permutations) of cropping S->R vs R->S (R = rectangular) and I’m still unsure about that but it’s good to know, by and large, anything goes.
  9. I think with TLRs, vertical parallax is less objectionable than horizontal parallax. Also the shape lends itself to using two hands at waist level, whereas a horizontal camera works better at eye level. In practice, I almost always used the mirror in the cover to focus and the sports finder to compose. I never bought a prism, but that would have worked better.

    I really liked my Rollei, and used it almost exclusively in my last two years at a newspaper. Rolleiflex is an incredibly over-designed instrument. There's a little reflex mirror that pops down for eye-level focusing when you open the sports finder. There's a roller inside to sense the added thickness of the film, to start counting. The film is metered with a knurled roller, rather than a cam like a Hasselblad. The frames are perfectly spaced. The shutter and aperture settings can be coupled by twisting the hub on one. The other knob reads the EV value of the shutter/aperture combination. That's just for starters.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2018
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  10. Norman 202

    Norman 202 i am the light

    I think if I had my time again (or, more importantly, the time and space to work with film), I’d give the Rollei TLRs a go.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  11. Coming from painting photo realistic images in my youth I don't see aspect ratio (square or rectangle) creating wasted space that puts limits on how the subject can be arranged within a frame to communicate a compelling idea. Apposing space in size, location and relationship to subject is how I was taught to deal with the confines of any aspect ratio frame.

    If all you have is a square format and a single subject such as any object, there are a myriad of ways to arrange that subject within the frame from moving closer to farther away, up/down, side to side. It takes mindfulness and a bit of a gut feeling to look at not just the subject but how to make the subject divide and fracture the space to form other shapes around it. It's all about arranging shapes and forms within the frame and any aspect ratio can be used with this mindset to amplify an image's emotion, attitude and atmosphere.

    You have to ask yourself do you see shapes and forms when you look through any aspect ratio formed viewfinder or do you just see a subject to shoot? Each POV will lead to different compositions, some good, some bad.
  12. Here's a good example of uniquely composed portrait within a squarish aspect ratio that illustrates how the subject's shape is arranged to appose or contrast against the surrounding shapes in the room. You can literally divide up and create individual compositions just by cropping or zoom in closely with any aspect ratio frame. The subject is not dead center but is still the focus of attention.

    A Maid Asleep | Johannes Vermeer | 14.40.611 | Work of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

    Do you see shapes or do you just see a woman sitting in a room?
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  13. Large and medium format cameras were popular in the news business because you could crop the image severely and still produce an acceptable print. When is the last time you saw a square photo in a newspaper, or a square magazine? By the late 50's, film had improved to the point that MF replaced the ubiquitous Speed Graphic. Cameras with the so-called "Ideal Format," 2-1/4"x2-3/4" (6x7) cropped up, notably in Omega rangefinder cameras. The Nikon F changed all of that. It took advantage of the same advances in film technology, but provided a virtually unlimited range pf interchangeable lenses. You could now crop in the camera. You were no longer restricted to basically one lens for s Speed Graphic (127 or 135 mm) or Rolleiflex (75 or 80). There were other lenses, of course, but I never knew anyone to use them for news.
  14. "You have to ask yourself do you see shapes and forms when you look through any aspect ratio formed viewfinder or do you just see a subject to shoot?"

    This is dead on. Without getting too obtuse, the eye sees shapes and forms and the mind gives them meanings and names (Whether the word for a thing or the idea of a thing comes first is a subject that's been debated almost forever but they certainly both exist). Obviously you pick a subject for a reason or reasons and that decision is based on the idea of the thing. Eg., a pitchfork against a barn wall is one thing and a bottle of wine on a table is another.

    In both cases, once you've chosen the subject, 90 percent of the work is seeing, understanding and using the shapes, lines, textures and other formal elements. Eventually, if you have a clear idea about what you're shooting and some practice, the framing and composition can become second nature. The format doesn't even matter.
    Tim_Lookingbill likes this.
  15. That got me thinking (in a somewhat humorous vein) about historic photographic events that might have been given an alternate public perception. As an example if Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby was photographed at close range by a square aspect ratio camera with Ruby not even in frame if that famous Oswald expression of pain on his face would've looked as if he was being tickled to death by his police escorts.

    A google image search brings up numerous frames of varying aspect ratios of this famous scene most likely from cropping, all include Ruby's gun in hand within frame.
  16. That Vermeer painting got me thinking along the lines you just described about turning a subject into an idea by arranging it within the frame according to what is known about the subject. I kept focusing on the fact that where ever one places a pretty woman within a frame regardless of how well she's lit, what's she's wearing or not wearing, I notice the woman first off.

    And then I thought about playing around with that type of directing the viewer's eyes, but I notice that I've basically reversed engineered what I've already seen in the Vermeer painting and disappointingly realized I can never consciously think along these lines because everything is a feeling to me and not a plan to manipulate the viewer. At least the Vermeer made me aware of other ways I could use subjects that easily draw attention to them self and play around with that.
  17. Though I do think sometimes the photo itself is the subject rather than something that's in the photo being the subject. In that case, I'm not so much composing around or to a subject as much as the composition itself becomes part of the subject (which it actually does in all photos, even those that are more subject oriented).

    I think the format always matters, to be honest. A photographer may or may not CONSIDER format when shooting and format may well not (though it certainly can) obviously affect decisions, but it still matters to the composition and feel of the photo that ultimately results. To me, format is part of composition. I don't compose in a vacuum. I compose inside and/or into a shape. Sometimes I do it in camera, sometimes by cropping later. Again, that may done, as you say, as a matter of second nature, but even if second nature format is still at work, no matter how unconsciously. And it's having an effect on viewers once the photo is complete, IMO, again, whether they're conscious of it or not.
    john_sevigny|2 likes this.
  18. Good point. And it's interesting to think about what we bring, individually, as viewers, to the experience of viewing photos in different formats. For many people, square formats look more like "art." My grandfather, on the other hand, would just connect them to the family photographs he took as a young man.

    I didn't mean to dismiss the importance of format to the viewer. I meant to say that for photographers it shouldn't make that much of a difference.
  19. Yeah funny thing about women, particularly nudes ;).

    I teach composition, among other photo-related things, and I'm not sure I buy into the idea of leading the eye around the frame, either. If you look at another painter, Degas, his work very much reflects the photographic era in which he worked. He cuts things off along the edges, crops things oddly, etc.

    Composition either works or it doesn't. Trying to predict where an individual's eye might go seems vain and as you say manipulative.
  20. :) Interesting you say that. In the thread where we’re talking about photographing selfie-takers at tourist spots, I was going to ask Sanford what he would think of his shot in color.
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