July 31, 2023

Be square

When I first started using Instagram I found myself annoyed at the default square format, but they later allowed us to show the full rectangular frame that most people use as their default setting. However, as I began to post more and more I found myself shooting and editing photos with the square format in mind, and then I finally got a phone that allowed me to shoot in a square format using the default camera app.

What a revelation! Just like with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex film camera from back in the day, I have learned to embrace and love the square. Yes, it is limiting in some ways. Yes, it is a bit unusual compared to 90% of the shots taken around the world. And, yes that slightly different frame can also lead to new creative views.

Just like with a Rolleiflex, there is a certain way you have to hold the phone, and that opens up new possibilities. I have always found it awkward to rotate a phone to the horizontal to capture a photo, yet when shooting in square format there is no need. Suddenly my phone became easier to hold securely in portrait mode, and I now have a case with a strap on the back that allows me to slip several fingers through for even better grip when out and about.

Since I'm not rotating the phone I don't have the problem of menus that don't rotate or shift positions. This makes it much easier to swiftly adjust settings and frame a shot, while the phone is also held much more safely. I often do this one handed.

Using the square format means when I slip my phone out of my pocket and up to my face (when face unlock actually works!) the camera can be ready to go in an instant and I know by experience exactly where the shutter button is.

I've found other hidden benefits of being square. Of course, this format is perfect for posting on social media, and I find the auto-cropping that many sites do is generally not a problem with a square. If you are holding your phone in portrait position square photos fill more of the screen in the up/down direction because the shot does not have to be shrunken to fit the wider landscape direction. I find square format is often ideal for portraits and people shots. It also forces me to concentrate on defining my subject more, and there is less possibility of shooting something distracting off on one of the edges of a wider landscape view.

Try being square for a change!

The following shots are of the Hudson River near Schuylerville, NY. Samsung Galaxy S22.

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