5 Reasons to shoot in vertical format

We all know it, the vertical format is not the most popular among photographers. Maybe because you have to turn the camera 90 degrees, maybe because people think they can fit more content in a horizontal picture, or maybe it’s just the habit. I often go for the landscape orientation and forget to shoot in portrait as well. When you’re only shooting for personal or artistic purposes, you can shoot however you want, but in stock photography you need a diversified portfolio, not just in subjects, but also in formats, and missing enough diversity often means missing sales.

Photographer taking photo with camera

Here are a few reasons why you should also consider shooting vertical pictures, as much as horizontals:

1. Social media

The world is being governed on social media, if you know what I mean. Jokes aside, if you’re not on social media, basically you don’t even exist nowadays, and this applies to products, services, photography, everything.

Young people wearing face safety masks using smart mobile phones while keeping social distance during coronavirus time -

More than 80% of social media browsing comes from mobile phones. What’s happening in social media at the moment is a fight for real estate. Everybody wants more attention, more pixels, more space on your phone’s display. Phone displays happen to be vertical (or at least that’s how they’re used most of the time). Because of that, the use of vertical images is being favored on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (and you can’t even post something horizontal on TikTok), so in order to fill more space on a user’s phone, your images should be vertical as well.

Twitter and Linkedin are still favoring images in landscape format (horizontal), and any link you share on Facebook will trigger the preview of a horizontal photo, so you really shouldn’t just start ignoring the horizontal format from now on, it still has its potential.

But with Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram favoring vertical images and these three accounting for 85% of all social media traffic worldwide, if you don’t offer a vertical version of your image, you are probably missing some sales.

2. Book covers

It’s true, we kind of moved from printed books to their digital version lately, but there are still around 1 million books being published each year only in the United States (a number almost impossible to verify for each year and even less worldwide). Printed or digital, most of their covers are still vertical, it’s the standard image that comes to mind when you think of books. I can’t even remember the last time I bought a horizontal book. Well, most of these covers being vertical, they will mostly use vertical images. So, if you don’t offer a vertical version of your stock photos, you will probably miss some sales.

International Belgrade Book Fair

3. Magazines and newspapers

Yes, they don’t sell that much anymore, magazines and newspapers are being published less and less, however, those that still exist are using a lot of vertical images for their covers, and even their digital versions are still using the same layout as in print.

Magazines on display shelf in store

Maybe you would have less chances to appear on the cover of a magazine or newspaper, as they tend to use their staff photographers for this, but if it would happen, wouldn’t you be happy?

4. Outdoor advertising

Have you noticed how almost all the advertising spaces in bus stops and subway stations are vertical? Sure, they have some horizontal banners here and there, but the big ones, those you want to see your pictures in, most of those are vertical, right? Well, it’s much easier to create an ad for those if you start with a picture in vertical format.

Bus Stop Billboard at Night

And yes, almost all billboards are horizontal, so again, I’m not saying you should only shoot in portrait format from now on, but when you’re shooting, remember to turn that camera 90 degrees and take a vertical shot as well.

5. Just because you can

Yes, you’ve read it right. Isn’t it a pity to be able to do something possibly beneficial, with no effort on your behalf, and not do it? It’s like being able to play two lottery tickets for the price of one, and you would still choose to play just one.

As a press photographer, I was always told to shoot both vertical and horizontal whenever I was going to shoot an event. You never know when the layout demands one or the other.

Photographer

If you find it hard to turn the camera and shoot comfortably, there are tools to help you shoot vertical images more often:

The best known and used is the battery grip. While giving you the possibility to use 2 batteries instead of one (and increase the continuous shooting speed for some camera models), it also provides additional shutter and focus buttons, as well as a main dial, so you wouldn’t feel any difference when turning the camera to shoot vertically. This is perfect for handheld shooting.

The less known and used is the L-bracket, the perfect addition for your camera when you shoot on a tripod. The L-bracket (called L-plate sometimes) uses the Arca-Swiss standard quick release system on both the bottom and side of your camera, making it extremely fast and easy to turn the camera 90 degrees, without turning the tripod head. This lets you swap the orientation from landscape to portrait in seconds, without risking to get blurry shots (you know how sometimes the weight of the camera or lens plays games with you and instead of staying put, it slowly goes down while you’re shooting? - problem solved!).

Fujifilm X-T2 Camera Body with Fuji`s 16-55mm Lens and generic

Now, here’s a fun exercise for you: go to your portfolio and try to estimate how many pictures you have in landscape format (horizontal) and how many in portrait format (vertical). You would be surprised as well. In my portfolio, I have around 20% vertical images, so that’s definitely something I should work on.What’s your percentage? Write it in the comments and maybe we can draw a conclusion.

Photo credits: Niccolo Pontigia, Jim Mcdowall, Jorge Salcedo, Funda Keskin Ünlü, Konstantin Sutyagin, Paul Michael Hughes, Techa Tungateja.

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August 08, 2020

Herotop

Your suggestions are very valuable, thank you for sharing your experience!

July 24, 2020

Onime

Just because you can is the best reason.

July 19, 2020

FabioConcetta

Excellent article! From today I will work in the vertical format :)

July 18, 2020

Morganmf

Good, stimulating article. And it's kind of interesting that not one photo in the article is vertical. Huh? PS: it's also interesting that we basically see life as horizontal. I mean, how often do we look at the sky/ceiling or the ground/floor? Our heads pan much more than they tilt. Just saying...

July 18, 2020

Rbrucew

Shoot vertical format because you can...

July 17, 2020

Mpg144

Well written, but badly done. Look at your fotos, so you will learn.

July 16, 2020

TheSlowWalkers

Good article and ideas. It seems I have 54% vertical shots, which was a bit of a surprise after reading your blog. Looks like I'll have to cut back :)Just thought to look at the number of sales of portrait photos and that's just under 13%.

July 16, 2020

Williamwise1

I hadn't thought of all the applications for vertical shots. Thanks so much! 

July 16, 2020

Dudau

Thank you for reading! @Mccrainemercantile: no one knows the right answer, as it depends on the subject and buyers' interest in it, but maybe 25-30% would be a safer bet. @Rbrucew: I know, it happens to me all the time :)

July 16, 2020

Rbrucew

A very well thought out article; well done. I'm probably around 20% too. I sometimes use a battery grip but I often forget to turn off the vertical shutter release and bump it with my hand when holding the camera horizontally, making a mess of auto focusing until I remember what's going on. 

July 15, 2020

Mccrainemercantile

Nicely done article with good points to ponder. I love to shoot vertical images. Although, I only have roughly about 18% in my portfolio. I'm assuming at least 25% would be a good number to aim for? Thanks again for the tips.

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