Vertical or Horizontal Frames for Macro Photographs - dummies

Vertical or Horizontal Frames for Macro Photographs

By Thomas Clark

The difference between a vertical or horizontal format in macro and close-up photography can determine the success of your compositions. Knowing which to use in a particular situation can be based on a number of factors, such as the height and width of a subject, the type of environment it’s in, what you want to say about the scene, and in many cases, your own preference.

Choosing a frame based on the subject

A horizontal frame in its most basic sense is most suitable for subjects that are wider than they are tall. The opposite is true of a vertical frame. If a subject literally fits better in one type of frame than the other, it makes sense to choose that type of format.

The first question you ask yourself when deciding which format to use is, “Which does my subject fit into the best?” Fitting your subject into the frame in the way that makes the most sense helps to eliminate wasted frame space and awkward compositions.

The subject in this photograph fits more comfortably into the vertical frame. In a horizontal format, much of the frame’s space would be wasted and you couldn’t see the subject in as much detail as in the vertical format.


100mm, 1/250, f/8, 400

If you have multiple subjects in a scene, you must determine the best way to fit them into your frame based on how they’re oriented to one another. If the subjects are lined in a row, use a horizontal format to suit them best. If they’re lined in a column, a vertical format makes more sense.

Selecting your frame based on the background

The shape of a subject won’t always determine whether you shoot with a vertical or horizontal frame. In some cases you want to include specific details of the surrounding environment that are important to your theme or message.

If you notice that the foreground and background details are both important to your message, you may be able to maximize how much of those areas are included in a photograph by selecting a vertical frame. This enables you to include much of the foreground area, while still showing information from the background. View the photograph of the dominoes for an example of this technique.


If you notice that the span of your scene contains important details, select a horizontal format. This enables you to maximize how much of the scene can be shown from left to right. This photograph provides an example in which this is the case.


100mm, 1/250, f/8, 400

Certain cameras (such as many medium-format models) produce images in the square format. Some photographers utilize this format as a preference, or when a scene or subject simply fits best into a square rather than a vertical or horizontal format.