January 24th 2012 by Andrew S Gibson
Now, with digital cameras, it’s easy to crop and experiment with different aspect ratios. As a result we have a lot more freedom to play. One result is a resurgence in the popularity of square format images.
What is the appeal? For me, it’s all to do with balance and composition. If you look at an uncropped photo taken with a 35mm camera, your eye moves from side to side (or up and down if it’s in the portrait format), following the longest side of the rectangle. When you look at a square image your eye tends to move around in a circle. The balance, and the dynamics of the way the eye moves around the image, have changed.
Composition tends to be much simpler within the square frame than the rectangular one. Shape and line become stronger. The rule of thirds no longer applies; you have the freedom to place the subject in the centre of the frame, or near the edge. Convert the image to black and white and all this stuff becomes stronger still, free from the distraction of colour.
40 Square Images
I’ve put together a selection of over 40 square photos taken by some of my favourite photographers on Flickr. This varied selection will hopefully show you why I like the square format so much; and inspire you to try it out for yourself.
Even if you don’t use the square format, there’s a lot to learn from the composition of these images. Look at the way the photographers use line and shape. How many have a central composition? Would the black and white images be as effective in colour? (And would the the colour images work as well in black and white?) The lessons you learn can be applied to the rectangular frame as well as the square one.
Here are more than 40 square format photos for you to enjoy. Please visit the websites and Flickr photostreams of the photographers and take some time to explore their work (click on the photo to go straight to it on Flickr). There are some very talented people in this list.
Gavin Dunbar (Flickr)
Will S (Flickr)
Andy Brown (Flickr)
Lee Jeffries (Flickr)
Giancarlo Rado (Flickr)
Michael Diblicek (Flickr)
Betina La Plante (Flickr)
Virginia Gálvez (Flickr)
Yang Du (Flickr)
Noel Clegg (Flickr)
Pauline Greefhorst (Flickr)
Interviews with Photographers
I’ve interviewed several photographers over the last few years that use the square format in their work. Here are the links to the interviews (clicking on the photo takes you to the interview):
The Art of Black & White Photography (the first photographer in this article, Flavia Schaller, uses the square format).
If you’ve enjoyed this post, you may like to take a look at Square, my eBook about the square format for digital photographers. Click the link to learn more.