MF SQ Composition
Good day all, I recently acquired a Bronica SQ kit and looking for some recommendations on books to read concerning composing images in a square format vs the normal rectangle. If anyone has any nuggets of wisdom to pass on, that would be appreciated as well. Thank you for your time.
I've preferred the square format for years. One big advantage is when shooting on a tripod, you've no worries about having to revolve the camera awkwardly on its side to get an upright format shot. (only the Mamiya RB67 series had "revolving backs" to counter this, and they weigh a ton!) Basically you frame the picture till it "looks right" in the viewfinder, then if you want a vertical or horizontal shot out of it you merely crop in a bit at the enlarging stage. However the square shape itself shouldn't be dismissed, many pictures look best that way. I've had pictures published as a square shape.
If you are definite that a rectangular shape is required, then leave a bit of "give" around the borders. Many viewfinders will have rectangular lines near the edge both horizontally and vertically to guide you.
I'd suggest looking at Robert Adams' work. There's little you can't learn from his compositions.
Square format requires a very particular sense of balance, which I feel the rectangular frame does not. You will find that the square can be restrictive in some situations, but this will inform a more specific approach and discipline - which will only make your pictures and style stronger. If a composition doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. Something to mention is converging verticals, which can be that much more jarring with the square. So I'd suggest practicing keeping your camera parallel to your subject for a period until you get a feel for the limits in this regard. As always, this applies especially to architecture and any straight lines in close proximity - arguably with trees too. I always check the spirit level on my tripod from both back and side, unless I'm trying to achieve some kind of effect in perspective - which is rare.
I love the square and it loves me.
Honestly I have a hard time cropping pictorials into rectangles. Of course business portraits need cropped.
I do find myself cropping DSLR frames into squares.
Just use the thing, I don't know of any particular book/author going on about the square. Argentium view cameras makes and 8x8 with 8x8 holders.
Plus 1 for the advice you have received. and just a minor addition -- if my subject might look better either horizontal or if vertical is the case I will print not quite square by say a half inch. It maintains the the square intention but is just enough asymmetrical to fool the eye.
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Look at the images of Bill Brandt.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
For years Hasselblad said the square is the perfect format. So you can't go wrong with square.
Besides you do not have to hold the camera on its side to take a portrait.
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
I guess I'm just not obsessive enough, but for me composition is pretty much an intuitive process. I generally have some vision in mind before I bring the camera into play, but then fiddle around with the aiming, framing and distance/zooming until I see something I like and trip the shutter. Maybe this comes from bouncing around between formats ranging from 1:1 to 3:2 at random. I get enough attaboys on my work to assume I'm not totally off base. But alas, it does make it difficult to explain 'how to do it!'
As has been said, with square, there's no portrait/landscape mechanics to fiddle with, that's one less distraction. And one is still free to crop to other than square if it 'just feels right' when one is printing. Occasionally I find something balks at square, but not really very often. Anyway, there are lots of square photos, both here on APUG and out on the Internet at large, to possibly offer some ideas and inspiration.
Maybe the answer is not to think too deeply about it?!
Last edited by DWThomas; 02-04-2013 at 09:44 PM. Click to view previous post history.
+1 Art directors.
Originally Posted by DWThomas
If you have to have a 5x7 or magazine cover crop.. sometimes you have to "loosen up" more than you might think.
H-Blad made a crop insert thing for the viewfinder. The masks for the filmback were SILLY.. but I did use the viewer mask now and then.
Be sure to check out Keith Carter, if you haven't already. He is the king of square format.
The square is in fact the most intuitive format for everyone. Kodak used to make square shooters, Polaroid, now you have Instagram and others that shoot squares on the iPhone. I believe that, no matter their level of experience, every single person will make better photographs with a square camera.