Square Format Photography

The popularity of apps like Instagram and a newfound interest in old medium-format cameras, such as those made by Hasselblad and Rolleiflex, has brought square format photography to the masses. However, the standbys of rectangular compositions don’t always apply to the 1:1 aspect ratio.

Most books and articles about photographic composition list centering a subject in the middle of the frame as something to be avoided. While the rule of thirds usually helps 3:2 aspect ratio photos, the square format is more naturally balanced and doesn’t necessarily benefit from the rule. The viewer’s eye stays within the frame and is likely to move in a circle around the image rather than from side to side or up and down. Though the square frame may contain less area to work with than the rectangle, photographers may find they actually have more attractive possibilities when it comes to composing square images.

Square Format Photography

Pentacon six TL by Christian Senger

Composing in the square format requires even more attention to simplicity than other formats. The smaller frame benefits from the elimination of distracting elements and the use of shape to create symmetry.

Square Photography

Abstract (wall) by tanakawho

Just as in rectangular compositions, shapes and lines, when used artistically, create compelling imagery. Without the worry of the rule of thirds, photographers can achieve balance with many forms.

Square Photography

Disculpa que no deje que te acerques a mi tristeza. Contagia. by Ángelo González

Portraits in square frames, especially when composed simply, draw the viewer’s interest. Even when the person in the photo divides the image in half, the photo seems well composed.

Filling the frame is especially important when it comes to the square format. This format allows for a tight crop that looks well with most subjects.

Square Photography

Bee owner by Anton Novoselov

Square format images give the photographer less space to work with but more freedom of subject placement. This photographer who captured the image above gracefully included context in this environmental portrait while keeping the composition looking simple. Many frames within the square frame create a complicated yet easy-to-look-at photograph.

The square format is more than a fad. It has lured photographers for decades and can enhance photos by challenging more traditional compositional rules. And you don’t necessarily need a special camera to take advantage of the 1:1 ratio. Intriguing square images can be made by using a medium format camera, a toy camera, a camera phone, or just by cropping down a photo with a different aspect ratio. What do you think of the square format?

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Profile photo of Nicoal Price About Nicoal Price

​Nicoal is a New England photographer with a penchant for learning. Her work ranges from nature-inspired portraiture to outdoor product photography. Visit nicoalprice.com for more info.

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