When it comes to images today (and let's face it, written content too), we live in a horizontal world. You'd be hard pressed to find a computer monitor, tablet device, big screen tv, or mobile phone that doesn't favor the horizontal orientation. In photography parlance, we call it "landscape" mode, as opposed to the vertical "portrait" mode, both terms I think we need to scrap completely!
Even when we do end up viewing images on tablets and smartphone screens vertically, most of those can be flipped to a horizontal position and the content will follow suite. When I read blog posts, articles and other web content on the iPhone, I'll often go horizontal and pinch/zoom for better reading. Now not everything or every application follows this rule, but we generally seem to accept, and even prefer that way of seeing.
So why photograph in vertical mode? If you are creating a portrait, does it have to be a vertical? If you are photographing a landscape, does it have to be a horizontal composition? Most often there are compositional reasons for choosing one or the other orientation. But I'm starting to wonder about that too (I'm questioning a lot of things lately!). I would often see many new students naturally photographing everything horizontally, almost afraid to even consider turning the camera vertical. I would admonish my students to not only shoot vertically, but to think vertically!
I'm not doing that anymore. It is an outdated hold-over from the days of photographing for magazines and publications and other media that was vertical in orientation. Unless you were shooting a two page spread in a magazine, you shot vertical. Magazine covers, book covers, album/CD covers (ok, they were square in format, more on that in a bit!), single page articles, signage, advertisements, all merited a mostly vertical orientation.
But we don't live in that world anymore. Publications and magazines of all kinds are moving to the web, on screens that are horizontally oriented! Why should images be made to follow the old paradigm? They don't have to. I'm finding more and more that I really like images (portraits and landscapes, and objects, and abstracts of all kinds) presented in a horizontal format. For whatever psychological reasons, vertical images now seem restricted, and constrained to me.
I'm wondering these days why we even need to follow the old design formats of books and magazines when designing graphics and content for the web? For me, there are two ways I see to maximize the experience of seeing images in our new world: One is to fully embrace and explore a compositional paradigm based completely on the horizont ( a poetic term created by Jemfyr, hence the blog title). The second is to include the square aesthetic as well. I've always loved the square format in photography that is part and parcel of the medium format cameras. Square images just seem so cool, almost a nose-thumb to the hard line vertical/horizontal world. It says, "I'm the best of both worlds, and I fit anywhere!"
That is one thing I've loved about photographing with the iPhone, and some of the apps used to process those images, because some will only allow a square orientation. I have to admit, I do love seeing a square image on a horizontal screen. It has that cool aesthetic, fits nicely without requiring you to scroll up and down to see the whole image, and it works beautifully when mixed in with horizontal images. There is no jarring juxtaposition like you get when viewing a mix of vertical and horizontal images on screen.
Often what happens when viewing a gallery of images on the web, is that in order to keep certain web page formatting, vertical images appear rather small next to horizontal images. Let's face it, our hearts sink when we realize we are not getting the full image view we could be. It makes it easier to simply skip over those images.
So for me, I am choosing to fully embrace my inner horizont, and will only photograph (for the rest of 2012) in horizontal and square formats. I want to discipline myself to think horizontally, even (or especially) when I'm naturally inclined to go vertical. (*Note To Self: Video does not look good captured vertically!)