There’s something about square photographs that warms the cockles of my heart. I’m not sure what it is. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been seeing landscape oriented photos for most of my life and I’m getting tired of them or maybe it’s because square photos just seem more artistic. I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I like the square format and that’s the way it is.
In today’s post, I’d like to talk about the affection I have for this specific style of post-processing. I’ll discuss a few of the better reasons someone might feel the same way I do and I’ll also try to convince you to join along with our way of thinking. You may not know this about me, but I went through a “square photo” phase a few years ago. Every time I’d output an image, it’d be square. I can’t remember why I ever gave that one up. I also went through a phase where I used all caps when writing emails. I think I got away with that one twice before being asked to stop it. I don’t want to talk about that any more than I have to. We’ll leave that in the past.
Square Creates an Interesting Composition
I want you to do a mental exercise for me. Pretend that you just spent a few minutes looking through a collection of entirely square photographs. Let’s say ten minutes. Now, pretend that someone showed you a landscape oriented photo. What would you think? I can tell you that I’d be like, “What is that? I like the square ones better.” The mind gets used to certain things and symmetry is one of them. Now, I’m not saying that photos that are comprised of other dimensions are any better or worse, I’m just saying that square has a place among them all.
Here, take a look at this photo.
Pretty cool, right? I cropped this shape from a landscape photo because I thought the square would envelop the scene better. That it would “hug” the smoke pillars coming from the stage. I also wanted to remove any elements in the photo that I didn’t think were important or that I thought might detract from the primary focus. I think I succeeded because the image looks great with the dimensions I applied. This technique is especially appealing when there’s a single element in a photo, such as a flower or other similar object.
Black & White Framed Photos
A few months ago, I went to an art sale at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. Whenever I go to these types of events, I expect to see some astonishing art and I usually do. Much of it comes in the form of photography. A ton of it is comprised of photos taken right here in Maine. After all, we are in the state and I’m not sure why someone would be selling photos of mountains in Wyoming when Maine mountains are a favorite of Mainers. Anyway, as I was browsing around, I found that nothing struck my fancy. That is, until I saw a gentleman selling black and white images. I have to say, I was blown away by what he had for sale. They were all in frames and they were hanging on the wall. Many of them were perfectly square. I’ll never forget the impact those square framed photos had on me. That’s probably why I’m mentioning this right now.
The square shape can truly come alive when it’s applied to black and white images. Again, it removes the fluff and allows for the focus to be directed at the subject.
Square Exudes Feeling
Regular landscape and portrait photos are fine and I find it challenging to argue against either of these formats, but I do want to say that under certain circumstances, square photos can handle situations just a little bit better. Take a look at this next image. I cropped it from a landscape photo and the moment I did, I realized that I had made the correct decision.
In the original image, there was stuff off to the sides. I was distracted by that stuff so I gave it my attention. That took the focus from the true subjects of the photograph which just happens to be a couple in love. The moment I removed the sides of the image (street signs, park benches, automobiles), the scene tightened on the couple and I had no choice but to consider what was happening.
In my opinion, square images can bring out the meaning behind an image. It can force a focus and the “squareness” of things can completely change the way a viewer perceives what they’re looking at.
Social Media & Instagram
One hundred bajillion people can’t be wrong. Just look at Instagram. Every image displayed on Instagram is square and people seem to love it. I will mention one issue with this though. With this blog and others that I own and manage, I find that when I upload a post related image to social media that isn’t square, the results can be somewhat unpredictable. Sometimes things are cut off that are meant to be in the photo and sometimes things just don’t look right. I’ve actually begun cropping photos that I intend to upload to my social media accounts to counter this unpredictability. At times, I go square and things are a-okay. I actually like it better this way because I don’t need to concern myself with how things are going to end up. I already know how they will. Of course, square may play second fiddle to another format one day, but I’ll enjoy it until then.
I hope I clearly offered some new perspective to a different type of shape when it comes to photography. If you have anything you’d like to add, please do down in the comment section below or in the General Photo Technique discussion forum. Thanks for reading!