Meaning in Photography
Rethinking SQUARE: How Framing Creates Intimacy
What is a square? There are two kinds. Understand the second kind, and you can powerfully command a viewer to look, and make portraits more appealing by rethinking how we understand the square.
Example One: Bride with Mother
At left, the picture of the bride and her Mother has the proportion of a traditional square, 12 " by 12". These 12" by 12" dimensions are the proportions the camera recorded.
For the Optical Square photo at right, I did not change the crop, but changed the proportions of the image in post processing. This change added a half inch of height while keeping the exact same width (12" by 12.5"). The Optical square reinvents the concept as well as the dimensions of the square.
From my experience with clients for wedding photography, I know that most brides, not all, prefer the Optical square presentation over the boring traditional square. Why is this so?
True squares can appear wide and broad, due to the visual weight of their top and sides. Perceptually, ourbrains respond to verticals more than to horizontals.
Like trees, their shape gives them living dynamic qualities. We perceive that they have a living quality. Also, our perceptions influence what we expect. Visually, we expect that parallel lines will be vertical. Then there is the concept of visual weight. The elements in a photograph have a visual, perceptual weight. Add to this the presence of gravity, or the visual weight of the top and sides of a square, and our perceptions makes us feel that traditional squares feel dumpy and heavy. These are not feelings a client wants to have for their intimate portrait.
The optical square keep our clients smiling, and I believe it makes our portraits even more intimate.
One of these views seems more intimate. Why?
The topmost of the two is more intimate for two reasons. The framing commands a viewer to look. The crop spacing places the eyes asymmetrically, in the upper left of the frame. This gives a viewer's gaze a chance to scan and briefly return to rest there.
Also, the crop brings the viewer closer, so we sense a greater intimacy, while the frame edge keeps the eye within the frame as it simultaneously cuts out the large white area of his hat. These two changes bring the viewer emotionally closer to the portrait.