So how do you decide? The choice depends on visual concerns (which way appears best to you in the viewfinder) and informational aspects (what elements you wish to include in your composition). In general, horizontal framing stresses a subject or sceneís width, while vertical framing emphasizes its height.
Sometimes a simple shift of the camera from a horizontal to vertical position, or vice versa, can solve a design dilemma. For example, if a horizontal format shows too many distracting elements on the sides or in the background, then a flip of the camera might quickly and definitively "clean up" the composition.
Still not sure? Experiment. For instance, even if your first thought is to shoot a vertical or portrait format, take a look at a horizontal or landscape orientation. Sometimes your subject may fit equally well into both vertical and horizontal orientations. Regularly rotating your camera not only adds variety to your work, but it also serves this purpose: When shooting for a print or online publication, or for stock agencies, photo editors will appreciate the extra choices.
About the photosPeople portraits and lighthouse towers almost "demand" a vertical treatment, though not necessarily. For the accompanying images of my 6-month-old granddaughter Delaney and an Oregon Coast lighthouse, I came up with horizontal interpretations that I also liked.
As for light, the Delaney pictures were photographed indoors with indirect window light - as opposed to direct sunlight (usually harsh and contrasty) that enters through a window. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse was captured at sunrise, just as the warm sunlight hit the tower.
Note: Click on each photo to see the enlarged image, along with the exposure settings.
Like these ideas?Then don't miss Kerry Drager's online photo course: Creative Light and Composition. Plus, be sure to catch his how-to books co-authored with Jim Miotke:
About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Kerry Drager