What Is The Difference Between Portrait vs Landscape Orientation In Photography?

If you are looking to learn the difference between portrait and landscape orientation, it won’t cost you a dime to stick around as I explain the critical differences between these two image orientation formats. 

Also, It is no secret that your image composition is a critical decision you will need to make when it comes to shooting and editing your pictures. So, keep going to read about this important comparison.

Make The Right Choice for Every PhotoShoot.

Orientation can transform the emotions of any photograph, from isolated to playful or intimate. However, when horizontal photos for landscapes or vertical subjects in upright portraits may seem so natural, image orientation is not often very emotional.

Most cameras (including your smartphone camera and the latest Digital SLR cameras) only shoot in a rectangular shape. This means that you have only two options to take the shot: portrait or landscape orientation. 

What does the term “orientation” mean, and how does portrait and landscape orientation influence the composition of my photographs?

Read on to find out how, given the choices of portrait or landscape orientation, you can choose the right best approach for every great shot.

How to define “portrait and landscape orientation”

Portrait is simply a term that refers to a layout where the height of an image is greater than its length. Meanwhile, we use the term ‘landscape’ to define an image orientation where the image looks wider than it is taller.

Understand The Comparison Between Portrait vs Landscape Orientation

The only big difference between these two image orientation formats is that one has a vertical layout and the other has a horizontal layout.

Portraits are the ones with vertical layouts (meaning they are taller). Think of your smartphone when you hold it upright. Landscapes, on the other hand, are wider (meaning they take horizontal layouts). Think of your Android or LED TV.

The terms ‘portrait’ and ‘landscape’ have been around since the rise of amateur photography. Let’s now take a closer look at the critical differences between these two image orientation formats:

01. The difference in usage

Portrait orientation in photography mainly captures vertical images of people and objects. Meanwhile, the landscape orientation format is primarily used to capture subjects (mainly nature) in a rectangular shape, or in other words, in a horizontal orientation.

02. The difference in space

Imagine yourself capturing natural scenery in a landscape orientation shot. Doesn’t it naturally feel like the image is more spacious and allows for more breathing room? Imagine now capturing the same image in portrait orientation mode. 

Don’t you agree that it almost feels like the portrait orientation is leaving you with a limited feeling about space? If you are nodding your head like you are saying yes, then I’m happy to move on to the next point.

03. The difference in focus

If you move closer to your subject (in this case, a person) and fill the camera frame with the subject, allowing for a more vertical shot, doesn’t it make your subject look bold and taller in the shot? In short, on a portrait-orientation kinda shot, your complete focus is on the subject.

Imagine taking a few steps backward and capturing the same in landscape orientation mode. And of course, you want to include more of the background. Don’t you think or feel like the main subject is losing its dominance?

04. The bottom line

There are enough reasons to use both portrait orientation and landscape orientation image formats.

As we have so far covered, we have seen that there are definitely good reasons why both portrait and landscape orientations are crucial to photography. 

We have realized that choosing an image orientation is a critical decision we should make first when creating a scene for shooting. Capturing the best and most satisfying picture is possible if we get this one thing right: choose the most correct image orientation.

Think of How You’ll Use The Picture.

You definitely want to know where a photo is going to appear prior to capturing a magnificent classic car, the tallest building, or that cute toddler that looks almost like a doll.

If you are going to post on Twitter or LinkedIn, for example, then shoot in portrait orientation. But if the image is going to be used as a website banner for desktop browsers, then it makes sense to shoot in landscape orientation.

Still, if, let’s say, you want to capture a mobile version of the same site, then shooting in portrait orientation is the way to go. Let’s now see where or when portrait or landscape orientations are a great idea.

01. When Portrait or ‘Vertical Orientation’ Might be a Great Idea

vertical image
Portrait Orientation in Photography

We already know that portrait orientation in photography means holding your Digital SLR camera in such a way that both the camera and the image look taller than they are wide.

The various types of photography that primarily use portrait orientation mode are quite easy to remember. You’ve probably guessed the first and most obvious one right: portraiture photography.

As we all know, the human head or torso goes naturally with the portrait orientation. And even though it’s still possible to take portrait shots in landscape orientation, you would also agree that the composition balance feels a bit awkward. 

In short, your portrait photograph just needs to be in vertical format to look great. Therefore, whether you want to capture models in fashion photography or couples in wedding documentary photography, just stick to portrait orientation until landscape is the only option.

02. When Landscape or ‘Horizontal Orientation’ Might be a Great Idea

Landscape orientation
Landscape orientation in photography.

The horizontal, or ‘landscape orientation’ format simply works well for landscape photography. And the main reason is that landscape settings are usually wide. Think about how mountains, lakes, interesting blue skies, and dusty deserts expand across the scene.

You will definitely want to use landscape orientation to cover as much of this as you possibly can and create an exciting and emotional image. But it’s still possible to use portrait orientation to capture landscape scenes.

In a case where you want to photograph taller subjects like large rocks and trees, then it’s better to use portrait orientation in such instances. Apart from nature, some other branches of photography that require landscape orientation are event photography, street photography, and group shots, to name a few.

Final Words

As we wrap up this interesting topic, let’s remind ourselves that the main—or perhaps the only—big difference between portrait and landscape orientation is that portrait layouts are vertical while landscape layouts are horizontal

Portrait shots often avoid context, making the subjects appear more mysterious to viewers. But in landscape shots, viewers can see more of the background, which reveals much greater context for the subject in the shot.