Tips for photographing roses 5: experiment with the format

Tips on photographing roses 5: experiment with the format

It’s a simple but effective tip, but from time to time, turn your camera round. Looking through Flickr, I’m always surprised that so many amateur flower photographers take virtually all their pictures as landscapes. I think they’re missing a trick: individual flowers and clusters of roses are often better suited to a portrait format.

It’s easy to fall into the habit of holding your camera a particular way round: it might be so instinctive that you may not even notice it.

Take a look at your most recent images: if you find you’re tending to do this, experiment a little and see where this takes you.

I’m not waging a war against landscape format shots – they can be stunningly effective, especially for landscapes. And if you’re filming a video, a portrait format can look rather strange.

If you’re a lover of Pinterest, you’ll have noticed that landscape pictures lose much of their power on a Pinterest board. This popular image sharing site displays all images as pins on the pinboard at a fixed width, currently 172 pixels. A pin can be any height – it’ll shrink to fit, but if you’re rapidly scanning a board of pictures on Pinterest to find those you like, size matters!

At a classic 4:3 picture ratio, you’ll be squinting to make out much detail in a landscape format image of 144 pixels high, especially on your phone. Portrait shots are displayed at a much more useful 256 pixels high. So if you’d like more people to share your pins of roses, make more of them portraits.

And, setting Pinterest aside, I firmly believe you should always aim to give yourself options, particularly if you’re planning to actually use your photographs rather than just enjoy having them – perhaps on blogs, websites or marketing material.

I’ve heard people argue that, if you’re planning to use your shots, you should always know exactly what format of image you need before you take it. You might think that this level of planning would make the photography process much more efficient, but I believe it’s short sighted, especially when you’re working with living plants – you may have to wait a year for the plant to come into flower again to get a second chance.

Far better to turn the camera round and take an extra shot while you’ve identified the perfect subject, tidied up the petals and got everything set up just so. That’s one of the great benefits of digital photography. If it doesn’t work out, you can just delete the picture.

By all means, make sure you cover your immediate needs, but have an eye for the future, and try to anticipate other people’s needs too. If you work in marketing for an international company, one thing’s for sure – you’ll never know what request will turn up next.

It would be a pity to miss out on some free publicity if you were to get a request from a journalist for a particular format of shot – perhaps if you’re very lucky, for a magazine cover – and you don’t have one. How many magazines have you seen printed in a landscape format?

When working with top photographers who had the best equipment, I used to value pictures that could be cropped as squares, portraits and landscapes – the more flexibility, the better.

And we never had enough of those ultra-wide pictures that are so useful online:  it’s well worth making a conscious effort to capture this type of shot too.

If your pictures are less pixel-perfect than the professionals’ images – so less suitable for cropping – you can give yourself the same kind of flexibility by turning the camera round, recomposing and taking another shot.

When you see a rose looking fantastic, at the peak of bloom, there’s no time like the present.

You may not be back there any time soon – and even in your own garden, it may rain torrentially overnight. Do yourself a favour and take full advantage of this golden opportunity, even if it means squeezing a few extra shots into a busy day. You’ll thank me afterwards!

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