Photo Tip Friday: Horizontal versus Vertical in Photography

by Mary Denman  @MaryDenman

Have you ever wondered whether it was better to compose a picture from a vertical or horizontal position? (Also known as portrait versus landscape.)

Today's photography tips will help you know whether to use horizontal versus vertical to get the best shot. Or at least teach you how to try it both ways to get the photo you most want.

Let's get started:

Vertical Shot of Railroad Lines

TIP 1: Use the direction of the long lines in your shot to help guide you. Use those long lines to your advantage. If they are strongest vertically, try vertical first. And vice versa.

While standing at a railroad crossing, I notices the late summer sun making the lines shimmer. It drew my eyes right down the rails.

I stood on the outermost track and took a vertical shot first.


Because of the very long vertical lines that drew my eyes all the way around the edge of the bend.

By standing on the outer rail, I used the strong line that ran parallel to the tracks. 

But since I like to try different angles, I took a horizontal picture as well. 

Horizontal shot of the Railroad Tracks
TIP 2: Move and change perspective if you need to re-frame a shot. 

In order to get a better horizontal shot I, I had to change positions. 

Simply turning the camera horizontally didn't create a very good photo.

So I changed my perspective to make a horizontal picture work with the railroad tracks.

By walking to the inside of the one track, I filled the horizontal frame with the curving lines.

Vertical Waterfall Photo
TIP 3: Try both horizontal and vertical if you aren't sure which will be best. 

I couldn't get right up to the falls, so my first shot was from the rail of the footbridge I was on. 

I used a longer time exposure to get the milky effect and took a vertical or portrait shot to get the feel of the water flowing toward me. 

The greenery on the edges provides softness to the picture.

Horizontal Waterfall Photo
Here's the corresponding horizontal shot. 

I set the camera on the same bridge railing since I didn't have my tripod with me. But this time, I zoomed in tighter to fill the frame with the falls.

Again, I used a longer exposure to make the water milky.

Which do you prefer and why?

Vertical portrait of my girl.
TIP 4: Try both horizontal and vertical with people. 

First I used vertical or portrait for Laura's picture. See her great smile? 

I also loved that her shirt and the bricks are such a good match. The focus is definitely on my subject.  

I used horizontal but had too much of the bricks.
Then, I took this picture and used horizontal or landscape because I thought it would go nicely with the bricks. 

Honestly, it wasn't quite what I wanted. 

There's too much brick and not enough of my daughter.

I moved in closer to focus on my subject.
To correct for too much brick, I cropped the photo, keeping the same dimensions. I like this much better.

Your assignment for the weekend is to take some pictures in both the portrait and landscape.

Take pictures of shadows, trees, leaves, people, pets...anything you like. But try both orientations of horizontal versus vertical photos and see which suits the subject matter better.

Compare them to each other. See which you like best. Then let me know what you did!

CELL PHONE USERS: This all applies to you. Learn to turn your phone on it's side and try horizontal shots since it's easier to get in a rut with vertical on the phone.

BLOGGERS: Continue to grow your confidence by taking more shots and using them on your own blog! 

Hope this tip helps. 
Keep on clicking! 




  1. Sametimes interesting vertical, but i use more horizontal, lovely post.greeting fom Belgium

  2. Thanks for an interesting post! (I came via #FYBF) As an 'old-school' camera user from way back...I take most photos on my iPhone in landscape mode, whereas I've noticed my tween and teen daughters' preference is for portrait, and they're constantly telling me to turn it to vertical when I'm taking a photo they may want to use on Instagram later. So perhaps a whole generation of photographers who opt instinctly for portrait framing is coming through?

  3. Great tips Mary, Love the shot of the train line angle!

    Thnaks for sharing at the weekend blog hop, have a lovely weekend..

  4. Useful tips as usual. I think I like the vertical of the railroad tracks the best.