The first time I ever shot a photograph with a square, 1:1 aspect ratio, was with a Holga 120N, a birthday present in June 2012.
Prior to that, I was heavily embedded in 4:3, having photographed for eight months solid with a Nikon Coolpix P300, my first “proper” camera, and before that, for five or six years with Sony camera phones, also 4:3.
As I evolved from the Holga to 35mm film, my default became 3:2, although I’ve still used 4:3 digital cameras ever since too, so it’s remained very familiar.
Now and then though, I drop the rectangles, and dip back into the square format.
As a few of my digital cameras have 1:1 as an option, it’s easy to shoot in camera with no need to crop afterwards, which is my preferred approach with any aspect ratio.
I can’t remember the last time I cropped any photo, it must be years, which is all part of my zero processing approach.
This month I’m using my Ricoh GR Digital III exclusively as part of my One Month One Camera project.
Which happens to be one of the cameras with a 1:1 option.
So today I decided to switch it up to squares again and see what compositions I found.
There are a few reasons I like square photos.
1. The proportions are equal.
This sounds obvious, but I just like the balance and the simple symmetry of squares, and how it eliminates the need to consider whether the composition should be portrait or landscape. A square is like both, at once!
2. You see more sky.
Usually when shooting any landscape with sky above, the tendency is to use a landscape orientation, and make the land to sky (or sea to sky) proportions 50/50.
Sometimes though, in fact for me it’s more often than not, the sky tends to be more interesting than the land.
There is of course the option with 4:3 or 3:2 to flip the camera 90 degrees, and shoot with a portrait orientation to feature more sky.
But then usually this means more land too, or if the land isn’t interesting, there can be too much sky.
With a square, the proportions feel right to make a more dynamic sky the predominant feature of a photo, without it entirely taking over.
3. It’s more challenging.
I’m so used to 4:3 and 3:2, which are subtly different, but close enough to be able to interchange without much extra effort.
With square framing though, it’s very different, and if you’re constantly looking through an imaginary gilded golden picture frame (or the actual rectangle of your viewfinder or screen) for compositions that fit, it’s quite a challenge to adapt to 1:1.
It feels like you can’t crop out anything at the top and bottom, which would be just outside a rectangular outline, there’s more in the frame to have to consider, work with, and make a part of the overall composition.
And whilst I do like using a camera to be pretty simple on the technical front, I enjoy a bit of a challenge now and then in terms of looking for compositions to capture.
All photographs in this post were made with my Ricoh GR Digital III on its 1:1 aspect ratio, so there’s no cropping, or indeed any post processing at all.
How about you? How often do you shoot with a square format, and what do you enjoy about it?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
Thanks for looking.
Share this post with someone you think will enjoy it using the buttons below.
See what I’m up to About Now.