Every morning someone snaps a great sunrise photo on the east coast and later in that day, someone will snap a sunset photo on the west coast and both photographers will have captured a horizontal photograph because they didn’t turn the camera. But it’s a horizon isn’t it? Yes, we’ve grown accustomed to it from the moment we’re born and where the water meets the sky we mentally create a beautiful image easily captured by our digital cameras.
Even television and theatre screens bring movies to our minds in a horizontal format, but fortunately, architecture and nature itself brings us verticals, another format we’ve grown accustomed to viewing with our eyes. It’s like our minds are programmed to the horizontal and vertical format as standards.
Many photographers even mark a treasure map “X” on the horizontal plane they stand on and never move from their self-imposed, sacred, shooting spot. Well it’s time to break the mold, even the Earth turns in 360 variable degrees, and so should our digital cameras — turn the camera and explore the possibilities. Don’t be a stagnate photographer.
Over the decades whether on a photojournalism assignment or teaching a photography workshop, I’ve observed photographers capture photos and I’ve always seen, and still see, digital and film cameras held perfectly either vertically or horizontally — though mostly horizontal. And while that’s the natural way of doing things, photographers should also look for different angles as with a slight turn of the camera you’ll experience new perspectives as there is more to a rectangle than four sides.
Turn Your Digital Camera as A Variant
From a math perspective, a coordinate grid has two perpendicular lines known as axes. The horizontal axis is referred to as the x-axiswhile the vertical axis is called the y-axisand the point where the axes intersect is called the origin. The x-axis represents horizontal left and right while the y-axis represents up and down movements, and on a graph, if you imagined a line from where those axes stop opposite of where they intersect, chances are you’ll have a diagonal line.
For even a rectangle, a true quadrilateral, has imaginary diagonals that start at opposite corners of its four right angles. While I’m not the best in math, much less geometry, if a photographer approaches a photography shoot with a geometric mindset, they might be surprised at the results, as often, photographs that break the standard mold with a variant are the most powerful.
Learn to turn the camera as there is no photographic rule to shoot perfect horizontal or vertical photos when it comes to photography. And if there was such a rule, as often stated by my professional photographers and teachers, learn the rules, then learn to break them effectively with a variant from the standard horizontal and vertical formats of photography. Basically, break your own self-imposed rule, or perhaps I should say break the mold we subconsciously have retained in our minds from birth.
But do it sparingly as we don’t walk around with our heads tilted at an angle, for if we did, people would think we’ve obviously lost our equilibrium. So, save the deviation of the standard horizontal and vertical formats for just a few shots, then stick to the norm, but don’t hesitate to tilt that digital camera, as variety might just add some spice in your photo.
Just don’t overdo it, learn to experiment on occasion, as we don’t normally see the world cocked or crooked, though as photographers, we can interpret the world as we see and share it with many. Learn to turn the camera on occasion and snap the shutter in between the axis of X and Y to come up with A. “A” as in amazing, alluring, anticipation, agony, arousing, astonishment, abnormal, astounding, around, aligned, aesthetic, above average, awe-struck, but most of all, the flavor of art in your photos.
In summary, don’t get stuck with expected results, deliver a deviation from the norm like the great painters did in their day. Diversify and your photos will stand out amongst the average. It’s up to you as a photographer to separate yourself from the pack as the sun sets from the same origin, the horizon. We’re used to it, it’s no phenomena, it’s reality and in photography sometimes our recreation of reality isn’t necessarily the norm especially if you turn the camera slightly.