Vertical Videos & Photos – Scourge of the Smartphone Age

turn your phoneAlthough I don’t do it for a living, I like to call myself a ‘photographer’.

I’ve sold images, had images published, produced images for websites, yada yada.

I also learned my craft in the ‘old fashioned way’, i.e. jumping in with a completely manual 35mm SLR with no automation whatsoever except for a built-in light meter that just told you the probability of a ‘correct’ exposure.

Since the dawn of the digital camera and more importantly the smartphone, relatively high quality cameras are everywhere, in practically every pocket. Smartphone cameras are capable of fantastic images, especially if you ditch the stock camera app and move to something with a level of manual control or exposure compensation.

This instant camera availability does however have a negative effect (forgive the pun), in that it appears to completely remove the process of thought between starting the camera app and capturing an image (or video). The most basic example of this lack of thought is the fact that hardly any smartphone camera user actually appreciates which way up their device should be and the proliferation of portrait images and videos on the internet annoys the hell out of me!

So why am I so disparaging of those mobile ‘snappers’ who choose to wave their devices around in an upright fashion? Well, consider the following points:

  1. Just about every device on which you are going to view your photos and videos seriously has landscape orientation. TV’s computer monitors etc. Viewing that compressed pillar box of an image or a video that consumes only a third of the screen with big black bars on each side is just painful.
  2. The typical field of view of the human eye is 180 degrees horizontal, 136 degrees horizontal, i.e. LANDSCAPE. We are naturally accustomed (if not designed) to view things on a wider horizontal plane which is why some can be over-sensitive to such issues.
  3. A lot of smartphones are trying to gain specification brownie points by capturing widescreen (16×9) images. In landscape, this ratio matches your typical HD TV or computer monitor. In portrait format it just increases the pillar box pain!
  4. The rule of thirds.
    One of the most basic guidelines (not rules) of photographic composition is that your main subject should nestle on one of the ‘thirds’ of the viewport. Whilst it can obviously done in portrait orientation, your options of obtaining great composition are vastly reduced.
  5. Capturing in portrait on a phone actively encourages you to use it one-handed. You would be amazed how much better your photos would be if you used 2 hands to steady the device, especially in darkened conditions.

There are of course a few very valid reasons for taking a photograph in portrait mode. A very tall building, waterfall, tree, whatever.


It just makes no sense whatsoever.

Hold your phone this way round!
Hold your phone this way round! (Samsung Galaxy S4 during a power cut)

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