This blog is about my love for Square format compositions. I am going to tell you why I love this format, what it brings, and how I use it. And No! you do not need to have a 120mm hasselblad to shoot square format 🙂
I recall a time, where we film shooters had to decide between 120-roll film format or Less expensive and smaller in size, 35mm (possibly other formats but i didn’t bother with them). Larger negatives meant better prints, possibly why professionals sought that platform while most us amateurs could only drool over the expensive brands like Hasselblad.
I couldn’t afford a Rolleiflex, Mamiya or Hasselblad, so I got myself a Hasselbladski. My edition was the greatly improved Kiev 88CM which features a Pentacon Six lens mount and a cloth shutter, yes it is heaven, but convenience was not strong with it. So it ended with being my Minolta that was my companion on my photo tours. Today I shoot Sony alpha A99V and my old faithful Kiev 88cm sits on the shelf looking at me, luring at me, almost like it’s blaming me for my wrong choices in life, it knows that I have a soft heart for its 120mm films.
To this day I still love the square format, and quite often crop my way to it in the post process, the reasons is many and I am going to elaborate on a few of them in this blog.
I like the way a scene is seen
Shooting square format is an entirely different beast, it challenges my perception, causing me to rethink composition in an entirely different way. Even when shooting 35mm cameras, I try to imagine how the scene will be when cropped down from 3:2 aspect ratio to 1:1. I do wish that Sony would put on the creative heat, and give us 1:1 ratio, but that is not very likely going to happen. There is some 35mm cameras that features this capability, but remember it is only a visual aid and not the same as having the same resolution horizontally as well as vertically when shooting native 1:1. So yes the benefits of a simulated 1:1 format limits itself to composition, you achieve equal good if not better 1:1 ratios photographs in post processing.
I like the balance square introduce
I tend crop my pictures to 1:1 in the post processing, not only to cut away unwanted elements, but to create a balance in the photograph and it forces the way we look at a photography in an entirely different way.
Seeking a square format is not only relevant to my post processing, it is very much in play in my mindset when I am composing the photograph. I imagine the squared layout, this include avoiding putting my motives anywhere near the extreme corners. Not only does this make the post process cropping easier, but it also positively affects the quality. Using the center of the lens gives more sharpness, less distortion and obviously no vignetting.
I started out saying that 1:1 formats forces us to look at the photograph in an entirely different way than a 3:2 format do. If we take away other factors such as leading lines, varying texture, complementing colour, rule of odds and negative space e.g. we end up with a very dominant factor, format. Rectangular frames forces the eye going from side to side or from top to bottom, depending on if the rectangle is landscape or portrait orientated. This is so different from how a squared format affects us. Here our eye is lead into a circular movement, a kind of roundish pattern.
Symmetry, Centering, Diagonal and Negative Space
If you have had time to see some of my former blog posts, then you know I am a great believer in deliberate compositions.
Everytime I see a scene with heaps of symmetry I start to think of square compositions, maybe the reason is that the square itself is symmetrical.
I like elements that can attract the eye, elements that distracts its path around the photograph, that being a strong diagonal that bisects the square into two equal triangles or a dominant center object, that fixates the eye.
When cropping a photograph to a square format I always pay attention to the negative space. Sure you can enhance a photograph by eliminating excess space, is it still important to keep the balance. Perhaps is the negative space ability to define the subject the most difficult element to master when you are on the path to an understanding of the square format.
Rule of thirds
You might have heard that Rule of Thirds doesn’t apply for square formats. It is nonsense, it applies equally little and equally much as it does in any ordinary photograph. It all depends, so many factors goes into a photography, and rule of thirds is just one. What I have observed is that Just central subject placement and symmetry works really great for square photos, so well that is easily overrules the basic composition rules such as the rule of thirds. I like to find the The rule of thirds in a squared photography whenever I am doing landscape photography, or anytime where the subjects at at large.