Over the last couple of weeks I have been musing on the importance of shape on the impact of the images we create. Do you prefer to use landscape or portrait style? Most images are recorded as some form of rectangle, but what about other shapes?
There is, of course, one shape that is now seeing a resurgence in popularity through the rise of apps such as Instagram; the square format. I am becoming quite a fan of the square format and when I am checking out potential new acquisitions for film cameras it is often the promise of a square negative that tempts me to hand over my hard-earned cash.
A square feels balanced. It needs no up and down, no left or right. A square has a solidity about it; it is a very centred shape. In Samkhya philosophy, the earth tattva is represented by a yellow square, and this yellow square is also incorporated into the symbol for the root chakra, muladhara, which is associated with the earth element and grounding. The symmetry of a square adds to this sense of weight and earthiness.
Creating images in a square format is quite different to working with rectangles. Some compositions lend themselves to being square. The symmetry of a square works brilliantly with symmetrical subjects that fit neatly inside its boundaries. A daisy would be the perfect example here. This composition creates a sense of calm, alluding to feeling centred and grounded, as the subject is fully contained in the frame and appears comfortable there.
Squares also work well with close up images in which the frame only depicts part of the subject, leaving the parts outside the frame to the viewer’s imagination. Although the grid created by the rule of thirds does not seem to work quite as well in the square format, another favourite of mine is to layer the image horizontally, using 3 or more bands of interest in the composition.
If I am working with the intention of creating square format images using a DSLR, or other camera that records rectangles, I find it easiest to judge my composition by adopting a portrait orientation. I can then crop the file to a square in post processing. If you find it hard to judge, there is always the option to tape up your viewfinder or rear screen so you can only see the square shape in the first place. This way you can shave a little off each side, which means your focussing points are still central in the viewfinder. Some newer cameras also offer a variety of file shapes that can be created in camera.
As for me, I think square is the future!