Let's Get Horizontal


As I was setting up to shoot the checkered flag at the MOntreal 200 Grand-Am race this past weekend this though occurred to me: “ The vertical photo is a dying breed!”

As the cars raced toward the finish line, I instinctively started to turn my camera to shoot a vertical shot, which is what the shot really should be, to minimize empty space within the frame and to isolate the action which is taking place. Suddenly I remembered that this shot would go into the Grand-Am event photo gallery and most likely end up on Grand-Am’s homepage on their website, both of which call for photos that fit a pre-defined horizontal photo hole. I turned the camera back horizontally and fired away.

As a long time freelancer, I remember the days when you would shoot everything horizontally and vertically, depending on what your subject was. By shooting lots of vertical shots, the hope was that an editor would pick one up for the cover of his or her publication, which paid more money to the photographer. In those days my checkered flag would have been a horizontal shot, no questions asked.

But as our industry’s print segment has shrunk and the electronic segment has grown, more and more I find myself shooting to fill a pre-defined horizontal hole. Much of the decision making has even been removed from the process of cropping our images. For instance, I know that on the Gran-Am site, if I crop all my images to a horizontal 16:9 HD ration, they will all fit neatly and perfectly into the photo holes throughout the site. Where-as cropping used to be a free-form art, the electronic age has tended to reduce our options when it comes to cropping our images.

Over the last couple of years I’ve noted that my shooting has gone from probably about a 75% horizontal, 25% vertical mix to the point where I shoot almost exclusively horizontal shots. There are few thing more frustrating to both a photographer and I client than having the photographer produce a spectacular image that the client can not use because it is in the wrong format.

This development is neither good nor bad, it’s just the way things are and the photographers who accept these types of things will be the ones who will thrive as they press forward in the digital age.

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