Which Format?

There are several format’s that are used in photography, some of which i’ve used, some i haven’t. I’d used the large format of 5×4, the medium format 6×4.5, and of course the 3×2 format of the 35mm film. With the advent of digital cameras we’ve kept the 3×3 format, and if my working out is correct, we still have the 6×4.5 via what is called 4/3rds.
What i hadn’t used until recently was a square format camera. It was very popular with medium format cameras, both at the top and lower range, but for various reasons i’d never used one.

Since being given an old iPhone by my mate Gary, i’ve taken to using the Hipstamatic app a lot of the time. This of course is a square format. Using this has reminded me that when using my DSLR in live view mode i can set the ratio so that it offers guidelines on the screen for composition. One of the options is the square.
Very slowly i’m starting to use this option, and recently as i composed a photograph i thought about how it might look as a square image. It was just some red berries on an overgrown wild area behind a metal fence, but it made me want to make another photograph that would be cropped square later when editing.
At the time i struggled to decide which i preferred, and i still find it hard to decide as both are quite different in some ways……..

Red Berries

In this version i really liked the shape of the twigs the berries hang from, and the position of the leaf behind. I felt it was very pleasing to the eye.

Red Berries

This second one highlights the berries much more. Again the leaf in the background is nicely placed.

I’ve tried to decide by thinking which i would prefer as a photograph on my wall, and i have decided, but that to me doesn’t really make one better or worse than the other. I find them both aesthetically pleasing.

All views are welcome…..

P.T.

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About PurpleT

Much of my photography is art and documentary. I try to capture a scene as i see it in my mind, whether that be black and white, colour, or somewhere in between. I try to make an interesting, and/or attractive image from what i see around me, not just what would be expected, but also subjects that would be seen boring, mundane, or ugly by many. But they all have an interest as art photography. I have also spent nearly twenty years working as a life model, then the human figure in art is very important to me, and is something i try to bring into my work at times.
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2 Responses to Which Format?

  1. orangeacid says:

    Hey Tim,

    I went through a period of shooting square as well, mainly because I’d recently bought a medium format camera that shot in 6×6. When I was considering different systems to buy, I found some good arguments for why to go for 6×6 rather than 6×4.5 or 6×7… namely, with square format you can make the most efficient use of the image circle from the lens, meaning that you can get the maximum negative size from the sharpest area of the lens, without losing bits (on 6×4.5) or needing monster lenses (such as on the Mamiya 6×7 cameras). Another benefit is that if you shoot something square, you can then choose later if you’d prefer to print (or scan) in ‘landscape’ or ‘portrait’.

    My thinking was that if I shot on 6×6, I could do more (cropping-wise) with the image after I’d taken it, without having to worry about trying to mount my camera awkwardly on a tripod for shooting portrait. However, I’ve found that I shoot images very differently in square format… with square, the composition has to make sense in isolation, and square images tend to be quite striking in an individual sort of way. This is different to shooting in the 3×2 format, where the image by necessity needs to have an orientation, and, if the photograph is ‘landscape’, then your eye tends to run off each end of the image. Square tends to feel more ‘contained’.

    Have you discovered anything similar?

    • PurpleT says:

      Hi Dan,

      The point about square format using the sharpest area of the lens is probably something that gets overlooked quite a lot, but makes sense.
      When i had use of a 6×4.5. I generally found i was less likely to crop the image later. I often had it on a tripod, and the whole process was slower, therefore i tended to make more effort to get the composition right. I found i had a better success rate. Though if i decided it wasn’t good enough later it was mostly down to my own lack of vision and/or experience, rather than lack of effort.

      Looking back i think i would have liked trying out the square format, at least in part for the reasons you give. Composition wise it works a little differently to other formats as they’re all rectangular of course.
      When away late last year just after being given the old iPhone, i tried a few photos on the phone as square, then on the DSLR in the 3×2, then a couple in live view as square. I found straight away that i looked at the composition differently. When you have 3×2 then the orientation you choose will affect the way it’s viewed, which is of course why we make a choice, so for that reason i think you do need to think differently about the composition when square. It perhaps is more contained like you say.

      When i first got seriously into photography i saw a series of portraits in a square format. Being so used to the regular ‘portrait’ style it made me look really closely, and i decided i liked them. There was a different kind of intimacy about them. It was the first time i’d had the chance to really look at the format in a critical way. It probably helped me look more closely at my own work.

      With not having use of one, and also not having a darkroom so couldn’t even think of cropping square. It’s not something i really thought about too much, even after going digital, just the odd occasion when processing later. In the end it took a mobile phone to remind me……

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