Portrait vs Landscape Photography: What are the Differences? (2021)

As a photographer, it is essential to understand portrait vs landscape. So, we’re here to help you learn the differences between them.

When you’re learning photography, you’ll hear the terms “portrait” and “landscape” quite a lot. And, for a new photographer, it can be confusing. That’s because when it comes to photography, these words can have multiple meanings. They could be describing the orientation of an image, they might define the genre of the photograph, or they might define your camera mode.



Photography career

Photography as a career has always been a great choice. It is a very competitive job, and for that, every photographer has to develop his own style by following and adding their own twist to trends that now attract clients. That is probably the reason you are searching which one of the two most popular photography styles is worth getting into — portrait vs landscape.


Portrait photography

This is something that most likely will always be in demand. Your clients can be literally anyone, including pets, as their owners want to keep their memory forever. People want to capture important events in their life, such as their graduation, birthdays, or engagement. Others want to commemorate their families by having photos of their families taken.

No matter the reason behind this, portrait photography will be in demand for a long time, since people want to remember their most treasured memories in a beautiful manner, and that can only mean that they will eventually go for a professional photographer.

portrait vs. landscape
Portrait of a man

You can either work for a studio that has a client base, or you can try doing something on your own. With a little research, you can find more useful tips on how to become a successful freelance photographer. As long as you have a passion for this domain and develop the skill, you can succeed.


Landscape photography

This is the type of job that brings you not only financial support, but it also offers the possibility to capture the most amazing sceneries out there and allows you to travel the world. It’s true that being a landscape photographer has some perks that are not found in the portrait section, but the downside is that you don’t get to have as many clients.

portrait vs. landscape
Landscape photographer

The best-paid jobs in this field are the ones provided by organizations such as National Geographic. But you can succeed if you start your own business if you find the right places to promote yourself. You can check out articles on how to sell your photos online, which provides you with the best platforms that need such pictures.


What are the differences between portrait and landscape photography?

When we talk about portrait vs landscape, we should consider the fact that we could refer to three different things:

  • Portrait orientation vs landscape orientation;
  • Portrait photography vs landscape photography as genres;
  • Camera modes – Portrait mode vs landscape mode.

Orientation

  • Portrait orientation – The photographs that are tall and narrow, shot in a vertical position, are portraits as orientation. You usually focus on a subject, no matter if it’s a person, a pet, or an object. The attention is on the central element, while the background just completes the picture. You offer it a certain feeling and meaning that couldn’t be captured otherwise.
  • Landscape orientation – Wide, short, horizontal orientation when shooting photography. They are about our surroundings with less to no focus on a certain object. If you want to show spaciousness, give people room to breathe in your snapshot, put things in context, and give them meaning, then this is definitely something you should try out.
Portrait vs landscape - which is better? | The Lens Lounge
Portrait vs landscape orientation

So, the main difference between portrait and landscape image orientation is that landscape images are in horizontal orientation and portrait images are captured in vertical orientation. Of course, anything can be captured as a portrait or landscape. It’s up to the photographer what format suits best his subject or scene, and how one of these options fits accordingly to the message he wants to send along with the picture.

In fact, you can shoot a landscape photo in portrait orientation and you can shoot a portrait photo in landscape orientation!


Photography genre

Just as you start your career you have to decide whether you are going to be a landscape photographer, a portrait photographer, product, macro photographer, or something else. You can try to combine some of them, but as you advance in your career, you might find the need to choose a niche that you’re really good at. Let’s see about portrait vs landscape, with their perks and disadvantages.

  • Portrait photography genre – Portrait photography has a model as a focal point. The model is not at all times a person, it can also be a pet or even an object. The jobs you are more likely to have if you are interested in portrait photography are fashion photographer, wedding photographer, sports photographer, pet photographer, and so on. Commonly this type of image is shot and set vertical orientation, so you can truly make the model stand out.
portrait vs landscape photography
Portrait photography

It’s true that this genre of photography can be quite challenging because working with a subject can e tricky. You have to be careful to really capture the emotion you want to display or be able to find the perfect angle so a certain part of your model stands out.

Another thing to keep in minds is that if you’re not working for a magazine, website or something of this type, where you have specific directions on how the pictures should look like, satisfying your clients, at least in the beginning, can make you feel like you’re not made for this. But worry not, as greatness is achieved with practice and soon enough you’ll be looked for because of your skills.

  • Landscape photography genre – It is made up of outdoor nature photographs — environment, aerial photos, wildlife, plants, mountains, and waterfalls. Most often, the landscape images are taken and displayed horizontally. Besides the fact that it’s the best way you could visualize them, you can also give the scene enough negative space to create a good focus point.
portrait vs landscape genre
Landscape format

One would think that landscapes make for simple subjects, right? 

No posing, directing, or desperate attempts to obtain and capture a meaningful expression. Landscapes will never complain that you’re taking too long, or that it’s too hot or cold. But those who are willing to become landscape photographers know what a challenge this can be. Although you don’t go through all the trouble of finding the right approach that satisfies both yours and your client’s taste, there are a lot of difficulties in taking the perfect picture. 

Looking for the right angle, capturing the perfect light, capturing the essence of the place, sending the right message are just a few of the things you’ll have to deal with. If this is your passion, working hard to take THE snapshot will pay off in ways you don’t even expect.


Camera mode

  • Portrait mode – In a composition, you have three basic layers: the foreground (the area in front of your subject), your subject, and the background (the area behind your subject).
portrait vs landscape
Portrait mode

In digital photography, it is a function of the digital camera that allows you to maintain the focus on a model. That is why it may blur the background of the image. Most of the time, this feature is displayed as a button in the shape of a person. If you want to shoot in portrait mode with your smartphone, you just have to hold your phone vertically.

  • Landscape mode – It’s also a function of the digital camera and it focuses on a scene, giving it more sharpness when the scene is distant. This mode is commonly represented by a mountain shape on the display of the camera. To shoot in landscape mode on a smartphone, you just have to hold your phone horizontally.  Simple, right?
portrait vs landscape mode
Landscape mode

Landscape photos are usually horizontal, so to integrate negative space to make the scene look more solid. Negative space is the space around and between the objects, in a composition. You need it to set a focal point – it is the point of interest that gives your art uniqueness.


Influencing factors

  • Portrait photography – Many photographers say portrait photography has fewer downsides. You can snap portraits with a smaller camera or even a smartphone. The thought of heavy gear will not be your problem. But bear in mind that most portrait photographers have a home studio with all the tools they need. So you won’t have to carry them, but an investment in such gear will be a necessity at some point. Here are the essentials you’ll need to begin with.
portrait vs landscape
Portrait of a bird

The beauty of portrait photos lies in the composition. As a result, many photographers tend to shoot more outside. While the elements added to a portrait frame just give diversity to the composition, in landscape photography they can add depth, texture, and warmth. Nevertheless, things like access to the right location and the weather can be crucial to taking the perfect photo, so you’ll have to turn to a studio.

  • Landscape photography – mobility; light; time.
portrait vs landscape
Landscape view

When we speak of mobility, we think of the ability to move, in this case, while taking or to take the photo.  As a newcomer to this field, you really have to consider the weight of the gear you have to carry when shooting. But if you truly wish to make this your full-time job, here are the basic pieces of equipment recommended. The things that you will 100% need as a landscape photographer are: camera; wide-angle lenses; a tripod.

Let’s just say that the camera is the basic instrument you need. Go wide. Why wide-angle lenses? A wide-angle lens has a focal length of 35mm-ish or less and is usually the tool of choice for many landscape photographers, simply because you can capture more of your surroundings.

Lastly, grab a tripod. In addition to the wide-angle lens, another useful thing to have is a tripod. It could be a regular tripod with legs of adjustable height that pivots or it could be one of those super adaptable and bendy ones. If you have your camera on a tripod, it allows you to concentrate more on the changes of the scene instead of being forced to endlessly recompose the shot. Stability is most of the time the key to a great shot. 


Multiple uses for your photos

When you’re working with a client that knows exactly what they want, you have to adjust in order to do the job well. It will not be portrait vs landscape anymore, but rather what the client wants vs what you know how to do best.

Most of the time, they use the photos for multiple purposes, such as displaying their products or services, presenting their employees, showcasing their headquarters, and so on. This might mean that they’ll want to spread the pictures on multiple platforms that request changing the format. This is tricky because you have to make sure they are able to do that without altering the quality of your image. 

portrait vs landscape photography
Portrait photography

This is why the best solution for this is cropping in the camera. Make sure you frame the shots in the way you intend to use them, rather than crop them afterward. It’s true that this is the ideal situation that requires more work than doing so in post-production, but if you establish things with your client from the beginning, this won’t be a problem. 

However, this is not always the case. Take the pictures in such a way that they allow cropping after you took them, or give your client the possibility to do that himself, rather than depend on you after finishing the job.


Why is it so important for a photographer to capture a mix of both styles?

We talked about portrait vs landscape, but combining them can be beneficial.

First of all, mixing the two can give you a fantastic combination that looks visually appealing on a website or in a gallery.

Second of all, as we said above, you give them materials to use for different purposes and that can be shared across multiple platforms without altering the quality, essence, and message of the picture.

portrait vs landscape
portrait vs landscape

It’s a very important thing because versatility and professionalism are what draws clients. Last but not least, the variety keeps you busy because learning new things is always to your personal advantage.

As we already said, it not only draws more clients but expands the possibilities you have to new opportunities that you didn’t even think of. 


What’s the next step?

No matter what format you decide to use, as a photographer you should always intent to express meaning through your images. And because for many, it is a job, rather than a hobby, it’s very important to sell yourself in order to get the business going.

portrait vs landscape
Photography portfolio

It’s true that there are a lot of jobs in this field, but most of them are already taken. So, you have to take the matter into your own hands and do promote yourself. Try doing so by creating a stunning portfolio on your website. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry! We have an article with the best website builders for your photography skills.


Tips

Because we promised this as well, here are a few tips on a few topics:

  • To make a subject look tall, regal, use the portrait orientation. If you want to emphasize that even more, shoot from a lower angle.
  • To fit in the frame multiple subjects, you can use the landscape orientation.
  • Trees can be shot in both portrait or landscape orientation. The portrait orientation makes them look tall, while the landscape orientation will make them look more solid.
  • If you are taking pictures of a model, the closer you are the closer the viewer will feel to the subject.
  • The more variety you have in your content, the more clients you will attract.
  • Be careful when cropping your images, so you don’t lose quality.

Summary

Now that we went through a lot of things that a photographer needs to know, we want to have an overview of what we discussed:

  1. You can choose one of the styles or go for both. Keep in mind that practice makes perfect. So if you’re just getting started you might want to master one before getting into mixing them.
  2. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so make sure you pick the one that fits you best.
  3. You’ll want to make a client base, so promoting yourself is the way to go. With our tip on using Modula as your ally, you can only benefit from this choice. 
Cristian Raiber

Self-taught entrepreneur with a deep passion for learning, understanding human nature and what drives businesses forward. Our products are being used by over 500,000 users, daily.

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