Turning the Camera Sideways

The Great Format Debate in Street Photography


Peter Pickering

4/30/20242 min read

In the bustling world of street photography, where the click of a shutter captures life in its raw, unscripted moments, the orientation of your shot might seem like a minor detail. Yet, as I browse through the countless images flooding my screen, I can't help but notice a pattern: an overwhelming wave of portraits and squares, with landscape shots bringing up the rear. This got me thinking—why do most photographers tend to favour landscape, while here I am, seeing the world through a different lens?

The square format, dear to my heart, stems from my days dabbling with 2 ¼ square 120 film, where every composition was a challenge to balance within those equal-sided confines. It’s a nostalgic nod to the days of medium format mastery, where each shot demanded consideration and careful framing. Perhaps my affinity for portrait orientation springs from a deep-seated love for capturing the human condition—faces, gestures, the drama of posture—all crammed vertically to emphasise their stature.

But why isn't everyone else seeing the world in squares and verticals? Could it be that the landscape format, with its sprawling breadth, is simply habit? After all, when you think about the panoramas and scenic vistas so popular in mainstream media, it's no wonder that landscape has become the go-to.

Yet, for street photography, where the chaos and charm of urban life unfold, is there really an ideal format? This is a question not just for me but for all street photographers. Is our choice in orientation merely a habit, or does it reflect a deeper, perhaps subconscious preference? Maybe it’s the photographer's eye that guides the camera, with some of us naturally tilting our lenses to better fit our vision of the scene.

So, let's open up the floor for a good-natured debate: what drives your choice of format in street photography? Is it the subject, the setting, or simply how the camera feels in your hands as you meander through the streets?

Whether you’re a square shooter, a portrait lover, or a staunch supporter of the wide-angle landscape, there's no right or wrong here—just different ways of seeing and capturing the world. And isn't that what makes street photography so endlessly fascinating?

© Peter Pickering 2024. www.peterpickering.com

Turning the Camera Sideways: The Great Format Debate in Street Photography