Give Vertical a Chance

Our cameras all seem to be built for a “Horizontal Priority”. By that I mean that the most natural way of holding our cameras results in a horizontal photograph. At first, turning the camera to take a vertical photo doesn’t seem natural. But fortunately, with practice, it becomes a natural movement, too.

There are many photographs that become more effective, and pleasing, in the vertical format and I want to show you a few examples.

The first horizontal is of the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco with a tram making a station stop. It’s ok, but you can see that the clock tower is cut off.

Here’s a case where the vertical is a better shot, as the tower looks more complete.

I took the next two photos of sculptures in Belem, Portugal and, surprisingly, they are of the same horses. The vertical really wins out here as the trees in the horizontal add nothing and getting low to frame the horses against the sky shows them off so much more effectively. And, how about those black birds we see only in the vertical.

The next photographs are of the same waterfall in South Carolina. Waterfalls, by their shape, usually cry out for vertical shots, but here’s a case where either way works pretty well. I prefer the horizontal in this case.

Finally, I show you a scene in Shutterfly headquarters, Redwood City CA that calls for only a vertical. Horizontal just wouldn’t do justice to that stairway (Shutterfly staff claim they climb it, for exercise, in place of the elevator).

Earl Johnson


  1. Joey says

    Earl, I have been waiting for this article since you first told me you wrote about Vertical shots. I really like the visual you gave us of both the vertical and horizomtal photos.
    It was very informative. I really like the Shutterfly staircase. Such a neat image – plus it looks like a great place to visit AND work!
    Great article!

  2. Jean B says

    Hi Earl! This is a great article on vertical photography! I know that I’ve taken some shots that just wouldn’t have had the same effect horizontally – and so glad I turned my camera! :0) Great Examples!

  3. Debbie Speed says

    I use vertical quite a lot, and for all the reasons you talked about Earl! A lot of the time it is easy to forget the view you would miss without the vertical view! Nice descriptions, and examples! Good article! Thanks for reminding us to always look up also!

  4. BarbaraJ says

    Earl thank you for caring enough to share your knowledge. I love the examples and I agree with you. I find I take more vertical with my roses and portraits. Thank you for sharing. bj

  5. shannonr says

    Earl, I really love reading your articles as they are so informative in the use of our cameras. I try to do alot with my camera but am lacking alot of the knowledge to hit those key elements. This article was great and I will find myself tips that camera alot more often. Thanks

  6. says

    I find I turn my camera more and more. I just start seeing a bigger picture that will include a wonderful backdrop as the sky. I feel that the turn of a camera will give great sense of depth in your photographs too. If I have taken a picture in landscape form, I will always try a portrait crop just to see if I missed any drama.

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