As I sat editing in still photographs to my recent video project I had new thoughts about what aspect ratios to shoot...

When I shoot portraits I sure like working in a square format. This will come as no revelation to people who have followed the blog for a while...

For most commercial stuff I've been shooting whatever the actual, full format of the sensor is. The reason, no doubt developed in earlier times (the era of insufficient resolution), it to take full advantage of the total number of pixels available.

But as I sat editing video and trying to add still photographs to it I discovered that it might be a better idea, going forward, to shoot the routine documentary work and corporate advertising work in a skinnier format; something like 16:9.

We now have ample resolution at our disposal and shooting with an aspect ratio like 16:9 means we're not losing much quality but we might be gaining a library of images with more flexibility for multi-media work.

Now I know that someone out there will tell me that they have a series of sub-routines hardwired in their massive brains that can immediately identify the intended future use of every image they create which then informs them exactly how much space to leave in their 3:2 composition for future cropping. The rest of us mere mortals would do better with a formal guideline.

The issue in video is that every 35mm, m4:3 and square frame will have to be chopped, top and bottom, to work in the much more horizontal video format. If we start by setting our cameras to the video crop (16:9) we can compose a shot that we know will work for both still and video. With a 24, 36, or 42 megapixel camera we can easily cropped off the ends of the frame without a visible reduction in quality.

For me frame lines in a finder are NOT enough. I want to see the frame, sitting in a field of black, that shows me the exact edges without my mind having to remember to stay "within the lines."

After my time in video editing this week I think I am about to become a photographer of extremes, with my Sony cameras set to 16:9 for general shooting and then set to 1:1 for portrait work and art that will never grace the moving screens. Can't think of a more practical way to do it.

While the a6300 and the A7R2 don't give me 1:1 they do both give me 16:9 and that's a good start. Both the RX10s provide a wider range of aspect ratios that also includes 1:1. I wonder if the RX10iii would also make a good portrait camera? Next experiment?

Just something I fell asleep thinking about last night...


Anonymous said...

"...Both the RX10s provide a wider range of aspect ratios that also includes 1:1..."

I have the RX10 v1. For a while, I was experimenting with the different crop modes. I learned that the JPEG files had the actual crop. On the other hand, the RAW files were still 3:2 images but with "cropping" applied that could be removed in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom -- again revealing the entire 3:2 image.

Surprised, I was.

But, as you clearly mentioned, having the camera viewfinder crop the images so that you know what is IN and what is OUT of the image has great value.


gb said...

Interesting. A lot of my generalist utilitarian school and kitchen photography naturally falls nicely in a 16:9 frame. I discovered this while shooting half of a cooking workshop with a Nokia Pureview 808 camera (41-mpx sensor). The pix were wonderfully inclusive - due to the wide angle - without having to lop off the top and bottom later. Being able to visualize the photos in-camera that way was very helpful, leading me to hope I'll someday have a "real" camera that can do exactly what you're saying.

Bootz said...

One of the things i absolutely loved about my little Panasonic LX7 was the aspect ratio switch on the lens, giving you the option of 1:1, 4:3, 3:2 or 16:9. Still do love it, come to think of it.

bpr said...

Yup, as we move to digital delivery, 16:9 is the way forward for stills, this has been obvs for some time.

Carlo Santin said...

Would love to see some portraits with the new Sony. Looking forward to them.

Raymond Charette said...

About a hundred years ago, a visionary film director named Sergei Eisenstein suggested that film cameras should all shoot in a 1:1 aspect ratio, no matter the film size; square moving pictures. He suggested that the square frame, in all its perfection, could then be reframed as a vertical or a horizontal shot according to the vision of the director. What a concept! Hasselblad and Rolleiflex (and Bronica and Mamiya and others) folowed through.
Personally, I think it's a brilliant idea!
It would also make clear what a «normal» focal length is, and what is a wide-angle and a telephoto. And why 50 mm is (inaccurately) considered normal, etc. It would also clear up the crop factor issue with beginner photographers: normal is the length of the diagonal of the square image (inscribed in a circle, most lenses being spherical)
I guess that would be too simple, now that we're accustomed to frivolous and lucrative complexity!

Morgan Walker said...

Why is it that the Sony A series does not allow for a 1:1 crop?