How to Take Dynamic Square Format Photos

Nov 2015
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Square format photography has taken over in a big way, and can be a bit challenging for a novice photographer, as well as someone who understands traditional photographic principals of composition. However, square format photos can be just as dynamic and harmonious as portrait and landscape layouts when done right. Here are some ideas to try when snapping your next square shots:

Place your subject in the center of your photo. In traditional photography, you are advised to use the rule of thirds and to always place your subject off center. In square format photography, placing your subject in the center of your composition can provide a lot of visual impact; just make sure the subject is interesting enough to catch your audience’s attention.



photo: @coffeexample
photo: @coffeexample


Use diagonal lines to create harmony. Diagonal compositions establish a dialog between your subjects and create a natural visual flow. Diagonal placement of your subjects will ensure that your composition is balanced horizontally and vertically.


photo: @giana.m.m
photo: @giana.m.m


Incorporate empty space to avoid visual crowding. Square format photography gives you less space to work with, and it can be tempting to cram as much subject matter into the frame as possible. Allowing your subject to “breathe” by leaving space around it will not only give the eye a reprieve, it will also make your photos appear more sophisticated.


photo: @flora_forager
photo: @flora_forager


Draw the eye to your subject. When shooting your photos, look for visual elements that pull your eye towards your subject (winding roads or railroad tracks, for example). Adding elements of depth to your pictures will create engaging and intriguing photos that will immediately catch your viewer’s eye.


photo: @magdalene_t


Choose singular, simple subjects that create an impact. Choosing one subject and allowing it to fill the entire frame often creates more visual panache than trying to group multiple subjects into the same photo. Square format photos do not offer you as much surrounding space to frame your subject and create context, so don’t be afraid to let your subject make a bold statement.


photo: @giana.m.m
photo: @giana.m.m


 Rethink the Rule of Thirds. While dividing your canvas into thirds can still work for square photos, this tends to look best when you have a large, singular subject to work with such as a tall building or a long bridge. When shooting smaller, singular subjects, such as birds or people in nature, it helps to imagine your canvas broken up into a 9 x 9 grid, and position your subject in one of those smaller squares. For horizontal landscape photography, splitting your canvas in half or even quarters and positioning your line of sight along one of those demarcations can work extremely well.




Take traditional size photos, then crop. While shooting your photos in square format will give you a more accurate idea of what your composition will look like, shooting in landscape or portrait will give you more flexibility when cropping your images and give you better pixel resolution. You can always crop away superfluous material from your image, but you can’t get it back once your photo op has passed. When in doubt, shoot in the largest format at the highest resolution possible and make your edits later.


Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 2.00.00 PM
photo: @giana.m.m


The most important thing to remember when taking square photos, however, is to have fun and break all the rules. Square format photography is exciting, contemporary, and offers endless possibilities for creativity… so snap away!






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