I have always struggled with the 3:2 ratio frame size used in the 35mm film (and digital SLR) format cameras. The framing just doesn’t fit the way I see the world around me and therefore, it is often a distraction when I am composing photographs. Trying to find visual elements that are vertically or horizontally strong requires an additional step in my image making workflow that I find isn’t always necessary.
Although I occasionally shoot with a large format 4 x 5 view camera and a Hasselblad medium format camera, the vast majority of the time I shoot with a digital SLR, which means the 3:2 format. Therefore, one of the first things I do in post processing is to crop my images. I can easily spend as much time cropping an image as I can with any other post processing work. In the early days of digital SLR cameras the pixel count limited the amount of cropping that could be done without degrading the quality of the image once it’s physical size was increased for printing. No longer constrained with this limitation I am finding that more of my final images are either close to a 4:5 aspect ratio or perfectly square.
Since the squarer format itself doesn’t add emphasis to the image, greater attention has to be given to composition. For me, removing the need to include visual elements that work with the 3:2 format actually helps me spend more time just thinking about the subject itself and how I can add emphasis using the fundamental elements of light, shape, form, and texture. Minimalist and simple compositions are important elements of my work and since the squarer formats are easy on the eye I feel that my final images benefit greatly from this frame aspect. Additionally, as I mentioned in an earlier post, negative space is an important part of the images I create and I find that the squarer format helps me balance the composition, thereby hopefully allowing the viewers imagination to wander for a while.