Print Media Photography Rules: Landscape Vs. Portrait Image Orientation

September 10, 2013 General, Photography 0 Comments

Print Media Photography RulesCapturing a moment that tells a story is key to successful print photography, but when you're shooting for a paycheck (or for a little extra money to pay for classes), remember to note the orientation of your photographs. For some clients, whether your photographs are horizontal or vertical makes or breaks their interest in your image. Yes, really. Here are a few photography rules to consider before diving into an assignment.

Portrait Pictures

In the world of photo editors, the word "portrait" means two things: vertical orientation or a picture focusing on one or several individuals, usually framed as a close-up. Before you sign a contract or agree to shoot a project, find out how the images you take will be used. These are the standard uses for portrait photographs:

  • Photos slated for publication on the cover of a magazine or tabloid-size newspaper: To fill this space, images must be shot vertically. Make sure to leave space at the top of the frame for a masthead or logo. Leaving a little wiggle room in the margins is also important for possible text-overlays. Shoot the images with extra background showing and let the photo editors crop in tight on the subject later, if needed.
  • Pictures that will fill a one- or two-column space: Head shots, sport pictures or feature photos that need to fit in a narrow spot are typically shot vertically. Grab the local newspaper and see for yourself: If you're freelancing as a sports photographer at a local football game or submitting a head shot of a business leader to accompany a reporter's article, check other issues of the publications to see how they have used similar photos in the past.
  • Images of young athletes: A great way to make extra money on weekends is by photographing little league or soccer players. Parents are usually eager to buy printed head shots and trading cards featuring their little athletes. These photos need to be portrait style, in both senses of the word—shots of individuals that are sized to fit a vertical photo template. If you're snapping the team photo, too, bear in mind that those should be shot horizontally.

Landscape Pictures

If a photography contract mentions the word "landscape," clarify whether the photo editor wants scenic images or horizontally formatted pictures. Both are correct interpretations of the term. Here are standard uses of landscape photographs:

  • Newspaper feature stories or front-page news: If a visual will dominate a story, the photo will run the width of the page; a landscape-style photo naturally fits best in this space. If the article has already been written and the format for the piece has been determined, ask to see how your photo should fit in. Some editors save spaces for photos before they're even shot and hope that whatever you submit will work with the article layout.
  • Double-truck formats: When a photograph seamlessly spans two pages of a publication, it's known as a double-truck. These images are always landscape, so if you're hoping your photo will be featured in the center spread of a magazine, wow the editors with an impressive horizontal image.

Knowing your client's photography rules is just as important as shooting superior photos. Think creatively, try several ideas and always shoot the best images you can. You never know when a photo editor will have a change of heart and ask, "So, what else did you shoot?" She might even decide on an entirely new approach to the project based on your work.

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