Philippe VogelenzangSvea Kloosterhof (2014)

I admit that I have an outsize bias when it comes to vertical orientation in photography/digital imaging.

It’s partly that image makers tend not to be as rigorous about the logic of their composition when deploying vertical frames; the choice seems to frame the decision as a question of facilitating immediacy, emphasizing of a centered subject or just feeling the vertical more than the horizontal. Individually, those motivations are all factors leading to #skinnyframebullshit.

I know a few folks take issue with the rigidity with which I push this notion. (In fact, I’m pretty sure a few image makers favor such orientations to flout my objections.)

But the reason why I have such an issue with vertical orientation is because even if there’s logical compositional consistency, there’s a tendency to lead to geometrically legible compositions but there’s a lack of dynamism.

In the western world, we read left to right and top to bottom. I’m not sure this is true from a design standpoint but I believe when faced with horizontal compositions, we want to read across the entire frame first. Knowing this allows the image maker to guide the eye.

With vertical compositions, the subject (if it is also vertical) creates a columnar effect: the eye scans the first vertical half of the image before moving to the second.

All too often, this results in the 2nd vertical half of the frame being ignored or only half seen.

And I guess that’s my point, if you are working with a horizontal frame, the primary questions are left vs right. In vertical orientation, the primary questions are up vs down. (A note to those perhaps making vertical images to challenge my assertion: every one of you are making vertical images that insist upon left vs right compositional questions.)

The above is interesting because it answers the up/down question firmly in favor of the former over the latter. The pose and the slight up-tilt of the camera emphasize this.

Additionally the subject is presented off center–unless you’re on a tripod and it’s geometric proof worthy, center your subject in a vertical frame is not going to work for you.

If there’s still any confusion: unless you’re skinny frame has at least the internal and external logical consistency of Caravaggio’s The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, then it’s #skinnyframebullshit.

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