How to take pictures/videos with your smartphone

Table of Contents

What is the difference between portrait mode and landscape mode?

The modes refer to the layout, or orientation, of a visual (image or video). In portrait mode, the visual will be taller than it is wider (in landscape mode, the visual is conversely, wider than it is tall). If you think about taking a picture of a person (a portrait), it may make more sense to capture in that mode – because the subject is taller than wider.

But if capturing a view that is wider, perhaps a countryside scene (a landscape) – then shooting with your phone held horizontally makes much more sense.

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Since the advent of phones, or smartphones especially, more and more content is being consumed on mobile devices. But here’s the thing, you can (and probably should) turn your phone screen horizontally (or landscape mode).

I watch a significant proportion of my YouTube fix on my phone, and I always turn it landscape; because it’s better. You see more, and it’s more familiar – it’s the screen ratio that I’m used to from laptops, monitors, TVs and cinema – so it makes sense. Portrait screens ‘exist’ only on smartphones (and potentially tablets).

Of course, with the recent addition of live video feeds (Facebook Live, Periscope) it isn’t wasn’t always possible to shoot in landscape mode – but those formats are changing too.

Why are so many pictures/video shot in portrait mode?

Look, I get it, it’s the instinctive way to hold a phone – in your palm. And if you’re taking a selfie on a night out (#TroutPout), it probably doesn’t matter.

But if you’re doing this (taking pictures, not selfies) for your business, then you’re going to want to take this a little more seriously. Think about your viewers, can they turn their phones to improve viewing? Yes.

Can they turn their laptop or monitor on its side? Well, ok, they can – but it’s certainly not as easy.

Generally speaking, we all have good quality smartphones in our pockets; why would we not want the images we shoot or the video we take to look as good as it possibly can? Visuals shot in a portrait mode will not be able to fill most screen types.

Do I need to do anything to change?

Turn your wrist. That’s it.

That said, you’ll want to do this before recording. Many phones won’t change the aspect while already recording, so if you don’t rotate your phone before starting to record, you’ll have a video that changes mid flow (causing your viewers to tilt their heads like an adorable puppy). Funny as that seems, they won’t thank you for it.

What’s the bigger picture?

This is something that, for the most part, boils down to preference. We’re not seeing performance differences between portrait and landscape content in the algorithmic sense (as we might be between plain text and visual), so for me, it’s all about thinking about your viewer, customer or visitor.

If you want them to be able to easily absorb content, you should really be thinking horizontal.

What do others say?

When it comes to video though, it’s really so much of a choice, but a moral obligation as Franchesca Ramsey tells us in her “No Scrubs” parody. Click below to see Franchesca’s thoughts on vertical video.