Exercise: Vertical and horizontal frames

This was an interesting exercise pushing the photographer (me) to break out of the natural inclination to take photos with the camera always with a horizontal frame. The setting for this assignment was Worthing using the pier as my central theme on a short and cold January afternoon and early evening.

The first pairing, a classic British seaside resort shelter. In the vertical frame I’ve placed the subject quite central using the frame to obscure as much clutter from the shot as possible. the downside is the shelter is hardly frame filling. The horizontal frame allows the shelter to better fill the frame and so is my choice here.

The second pairing. As the tutorial suggested without really thinking about it I’ve put the ‘weight’ of the vertically framed shot towards the bottom half of the frame, very noticeable when compared to the horizontal framed shot. That said, because of the cloud details I prefer the vertically framed shot, helped by the fact it was easier to get a good exposure with a narrower frame!

In perhaps sharp contrast to the previous pairing, this time the vertical frame sees me pushing the obvious ‘foreground’ (the pier) towards the top of the frame. That said I did a similar thing in the horizontal frame. On reflection perhaps the foreground is actually the sun glinting off the water! I prefer the vertical frame again, largely because of that reflected sunshine taking centre stage.


In this pair of shots a subject that rather fits the vertical framing. As a consequence my initial preference was the vertical frame. On review, what makes the shot interesting are the reflections in the water the subject is sat in, as a result the horizontal frame is the better shot for me with a better balance of foreground and background.

Time to move onto the pier, not exactly bustling for a Saturday afternoon but it was January. The refreshment bar was doing brisk trade in tea! Both shots (wide angle lens) exhibit that typical pier/wide angle lens effect of pulling the viewer in. I actually found it quite difficult to select a preference but the horizontal frame wins me over as the rule of thirds wins out!!

So as the sun began to fall the light was changing virtually by the minute. Another shot emphasising the point that in vertical framing the natural tendency is to put the ‘weight’ of the shot in the bottom third of the frame. Without anything really strong to pull the viewer in I prefer the vertical frame as you get a better view of the dramatic clouds.

Mrs.A thought it was rude not to have an ice cream as we were at the seaside. Here again I’ve pushed the interest into the bottom of the vertical frame. As a result the horizontal shot has much better framing. There is enough going on the fill the width of the frame whereas the vertical frame has a lot of sky that isn’t adding much to the shot. Thanks to the model.

In this pair I like the content in both, both seem to have balance. Picking is tough, I think my choice is the vertical frame as the figures look like they are walking out into the shot and contained in the boundary of the vertical frame this is how my eye is drawn.

The pier then, with the light falling away the frame was already in shadow. Both shots benefit from cloud following a similar line to the pier. Assuming the shot is of the pier, the horizontal frame suits the subject allowing it to dominate the frame. The vertical frame again carries a disproportionate amount of sky to achieve a good balance to my eye.

With the light all but gone, I took to photographing the seafront features. The horizontal frame again is my choice here, just too much concrete in the vertical frame and in the horizontal frame I used the shelter to balance the hotel and the lights taking centre stage.

A fascinating exercise, perhaps the seaside isn’t the best location for testing the vertical frame in composition but some shots like the groyne certainly work better that way around. They key is to remember to try and frame both ways around as you might be pleasantly surprised. One thing that was certainly beneficial as well on this day was to in effect narrow the field of vision allowing easier exposure control on a day where a low bright sun was a constant challenge.