square pictures – nowhere near dull

I was recently reading a photography book, where I was told that the square format is one of the most difficult ones to do well – it’s hard to find a scene that would look good and it’s harder to compose since the viewfinder in digital cameras are not squares. Ever since that day, I’ve tried to take as many square pictures as possible.

It’s an interesting challenge: one has to learn to see a picture in a different format than one does through the camera. It’s not as strange as it might sound, though; after all, we often compose a picture in our heads before we put the camera in front of our faces. We already see what the picture will look like, before it’s taken. The same applies here, with the small additional challenge of also not directly seeing the shape of the picture when looking though the viewfinder. In this digital age, we have to wait until the picture is on the computer before we can actually see the composition in our frame of choice.

So why do it? Does the shape of the picture affect the way it looks? A lot of people have thought a lot about these things – and found some compositions and shapes that our human eyes/brains really enjoy. They’re called the Golden Rules. Some of these rules are easier to follow when you restrict yourself to a square, some are more difficult. Of course, just because they’re “rules” doesn’t mean that they’re the only rules or that rules should always be followed.

I can’t really say when I choose that a photo should be in square format – I’ll let you decide if you think it works or not. Let’s start with some landscape photos:


Iceland – whatever you have in mind, in terms of nature photography, you can do there. This is from the capital, Reykjavík.

The incredible lava fields at Dimmuborgir – the Dark Cities (yup, that’s the translation). Still Iceland.

Here I really felt that the square format worked – the curve made by the animal tracks in the right-hand corner and the line between the people on the ice just brought it together. This is from Helsinki. Moving on to animals:

A beautiful damselfly in Hanko, SW Finland.


A mallard duck washing in the evening light. And lastly, some plants:

One situation in which a square frame might work really well is when the subject is very symmetrical – especially if it’s radially symmetrical like the Herb Paris, Paris quadrifolia.

A straight-on shot of this flower would also have created a nice symmetrical picture, but I thought composing it like this made the picture have a bit more life, more motion – that’s why I call it Star Burst. It’s a Meadow Salsify, Tragopogon pratensis.

I guess I really wanted to share a lot of pictures today! I hope everyone’s having a great week and a lovely end of the year!


6 thoughts on “square pictures – nowhere near dull

    • yeah, you’re absolutely right. sometimes it’s good to go crazy with aspect ratio – even if it doesn’t turn out to be great, you can learn from breaking out of normality!

      thanks a lot for your comment! 🙂

  1. Another good thing about square photographs, is that they all appear the same size, whereas vertical magazines and horizontal lcd screens tend to favor upright and landscape formats, respectively.

    Nice post, great imagery…

    • yeah, that’s true – you miss a lot of detail if the picture is not the most suitable for the screen/magazine. it’s a practical issue i hadn’t thought that much about.

      thank you! 🙂

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