Some photographers find it confusing to understand the difference between portrait and landscape photography orientations. If you feel unsure about what this really means, read on to gain clarity for your next photo shoot.

Whether amateur or professional, having a solid grasp on portrait versus landscape photography is beneficial. This article explains the key differences between the two camera orientations. We’ll also cover recommended settings, aperture, and lighting for each style.

Understanding Portrait vs Landscape Orientations

Portrait versus landscape refers to the page layout when taking a photograph. It also describes the camera mode and genre when capturing images.

By definition, a landscape photo is wider and horizontal. A portrait orientation is vertical and taller than wide.

Consider the Subject, Scene and Purpose

Now that you understand the core difference, when should you use each? The choice depends on three factors: the SUBJECT, SCENE, and PURPOSE.

  • Subject: The subject is the main focus and contents of the photo. Once decided, it helps determine portrait or landscape.
  • Scene: The scene includes the background elements to include.
  • Purpose: Photos communicate a message. Purpose reflects the emotions and story you want to convey.

Consider these core elements when deciding portrait or landscape. Practice emphasizing certain components while toning down others to create balance and harmony.

When to Use Portrait Orientation?

Portraits include headshots, graduation photos, or single subject/object images. Vertical alignment fits a face more naturally.

While common practice, don’t let norms limit creativity. Fashion photos use portrait even for full-body shots.

Portrait orientation can add drama to tall buildings or trees by appearing to tower overhead.

Portrait Composition

Portrait composition depends on subject positioning. A tall building needs proximity to avoid too much empty space on the sides, which would diminish its imposing feel.

Portrait Orientation

Vertical alignment draws more attention to subjects, bringing them closer and larger. It elongates depth of field for a broader angle, even with the same lens and focal length.

Portrait focuses the viewer on the main subject.

Portrait Background

With less space, portrait minimizes background. It works for subject-focused shots where context matters over busy backdrops.

Phone cameras exploit this by auto-blurring backgrounds in Portrait mode.

When to Use Landscape Orientation?

Landscape works for nature, groups, panoramas, etc. It includes more elements, capturing subjects whole like skies or mountain ranges.

But portraits can use landscape for the right composition. A boulder or trees may feel more dramatic.

Main landscape uses:

  • Landscape scenes
  • Nature
  • Street scenes
  • Groups
  • Events

For beginners, defaulting to conventional uses is fine. But explore different compositions to create unique masterpieces.

Digital photography allows endless experimentation. Film photographers lacked this luxury.

Landscape Composition

Landscape utilizes space. The same subject appears smaller with more room to breathe. Cropping horizontal lines feels less stable and restful.

Get closer to reduce space. Overall it feels less powerful but more vulnerable and regal.

Tips for vertical subjects:

  • Use rule of thirds and space when framing.
  • Increase distance between subject and viewer.
  • Step further back to include more.
  • Get closer to reduce space.

Landscape Orientation

Landscape feels more spacious. Close-ups can also create unique art using negative space.

It suits wide scenes like oceans and mountain ranges with multiple elements.

Landscape Background

Horizontal lines create balance and security. Vertical cropping removes this. Wider shots provide subject context via layered backgrounds.

Panorama Landscapes

Panoramas demand landscape to maximize width and resolution while minimizing vignetting.

Use manual settings for consistent exposures. Auto modes may change, ruining the end result.

Best Lighting Approaches

Lighting dramatically impacts photos. Here are top techniques for each orientation.

Portrait Lighting

Portraits use patterns to shape light and shadow:

  • Split Lighting: Splits face in half – one side lit, one in shadow. Creates drama.
  • Loop Lighting: Minimizes shadows, with light source slightly above eye level.
  • Butterfly Lighting: Shadow under nose shaped like a butterfly.
  • Broad Lighting: Emphasizes broad side of face aimed at camera.
  • Short Lighting: More light on side of face farthest from camera.

Landscape Lighting

With landscapes, lighting principles like these help:

  • Light and Shadow: Shadows balance light to create depth and texture.
  • Dodging and Burning: Darkens or brightens areas during post-processing.

Recommended Camera Settings

Modes produce different results for each orientation.

Portrait Settings

Auto modes presume a person, with a profile icon. They use narrow depth of field.

Landscape Settings

A scene is assumed, with wider depth of field. Icons indicate this.

But don’t rely solely on auto. Mix settings for unique art.

Ideal Aperture Settings

Aperture controls light intake. Adjust to sharpen or blur backgrounds.

Portrait Aperture

Wide apertures like f/2.8-f/5.6 give blurred backgrounds to emphasize subjects.

Portrait lenses use f/1.4-f/2.8 for maximum background blur.

Landscape Aperture

Narrow apertures like f/8 sharpen landscapes with deep focus.

Which is Better: Portrait or Landscape?

Conventions provide a starting point, but your vision and talent set you apart. Practice, experience and creativity trump all rules.