Shooting Square - Singing Praises of The Forgotten Format

2002_016_06.jpgI think I may be one of like 3 or 4 people that really like shooting square images. Like most photographers alive I started out with 3;2 aspect ratio cameras and learned how to use ever square millimeter of film. Then I got a 4:3 aspect ratio camera and things were pretty much the same. Then I acquired a square format camera that shot 6x6 film.

At first it was a bit hard to get used to. I was constantly distracted by mentally trying to envision the "normal' crop inside the square view finder. Somewhere along the line due to a combination of happy accidents and practice and refinement I suddenly started to like composing in a square. Make that loving it, all of a sudden it felt much more free to me. I took the approach of composing the best image that I could inside the square, most of the time it turned out to be my favorite. Other times I was quite liberated that I could crop it to almost any aspect ration that I wanted vertical and horizontal and end up with a fantastic and completely different composition.2002_016_06_10x8.jpg

This was great, I wonder why digital capture technology never took this approach as the number of pixels has grown - maybe it will. Yea I know about the Hasselblad "V System" digital backs, I have one from a generation or so back but rarely use it. Today there is a good chance that you are shooting 3;2. If you crop it to a different aspect ratio that happens to be in the same orientation that you were holding the camera it's okay. Want a square? That is dicey. Want an orientation opposite the way you held the camera - good luck - you are getting rid of most of the image data.

2002_016_06_8x10.jpgThe logic behind the square was crop it either way and lose not too much of the image data. The square optimized to take maximum advantage of the size of the image circle size of lenses that you were carrying around. Theoretically you could do this with existing lenses for 3:2 and end up with a square image of the same width/height dimensions - ie add sensor area - 3:2 lenses produce a big enough image circle. You would need new lens shades.

Just a passing thought. Anyone else out there missing the square? I still shoot my square camera quite a bit but really would love a more affordable solution as a carry around camera.


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