Film Format, A Compositional Technique

Black and White Panoramic Landscape - South end of Utah Lake - Shot with my Shen Hao 4x5 camera with a 6x17 back.

Black and white panoramic photograph - Antelope Island - Shot with my Shen Hao 4×5 camera with a 6×17 back.

As photographers work on improving their compostion, I have found that there is one tool that is frequently under-explored. The format and or aspect ratio.

35mm film is 24mm x 36mm: a 2:3 ratio. This format along with the 4:5 ratio are the most commonly used formats in photography and within these rigid borders, the artist composes an image. I submit that by limiting ourself to these ratios we limit our creativity.

Once every other semester or so I’ll have a student submit an assignment which they shot with a 35mm camera, and then cropped the print to a panoramic format. I’m always impressed and excited to see this. I even tell the class that just because Kodak or Ilford made the film a certain size, or just because their camera exposes a negative within certain dimentions, doesn’t mean they need to limit their creativity or imagination to work within those confines.

Crop or images, explore different formats, mask out areas of your view finder to help compose differently.

This entry was posted in black and white, Film, Landscapes, Large Format, Seascapes, Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink.

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