Widescreen Photography

I took the photo above way back in May 2010. I went to Huichapan for the weekend and was in an experimental mood. I shot the weekend in black and white. I also switched the format to 16:9. Widescreen photography. The set itself was a pretty bland bunch of snaps. I switched back to colour when I got home. Black and white is nice, with the right shot, but it’s not necessary to shoot in that mode. You can convert into black and white pretty easily in post processing. You can’t so easily add colour.

But from that point I continued to shoot in the widescreen format. I didn’t see many (ie no) photographers on Flickr shooting in 16:9. I was fairly convinced that this would become a more popular format going forward. Roll on three years though, and there’s still very few people shooting 16:9. That’s to say, pretty much no one I know. I seem to be the sole photographer that I know of shooting in this way. A quick search of Flickr Groups does suggest that I’m not totally alone though.

I’m surprised, and then again I’m not. Cameras seem to be set at 3:2 by default, and people do tend to stick with defaults. If they didn’t, Internet Explorer would have ceased to exist a long time ago. I can think of only two ‘cons’ to shooting widescreen. Firstly, I became very focused on shooting 16:9 landscape, for the reasons below, and stopped shooting any other format. Sometimes a crop is in order. Secondly, a lot of photo sites now display ‘rolling walls’ of your photographs, where a mish-mash of formats looks much better. There are some really big advantages to shooting widescreen though, and those advantages are becoming more pronounced all the time.

  • Many cameras do now have 16:9 LCD monitors. Why not make the most of it?
  • We view our photos mostly on PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. The vast majority of which are widescreen devices. Why not fill those screens with your images?
  • More and more devices make it possible to view your photos on TVs. I’ve got bought a new Sky NowTV box which integrates Flickr. Guess what format most TVs are?
  • Shooting video? You’ll almost certainly be doing so at a 16:9 format. Want to add a photo? Shoot photography in 16:9 and you’ll not need to crop the image.
  • Our eyes view the world in a widescreen manner. It’s the natural mode to shoot in.
  • It just looks plain better!

8 thoughts on “Widescreen Photography

  1. Kim G says:

    I think the persistence of the 3:2 format has more to do with the sizes that photo paper and frames come in. Because otherwise, all the arguments you presented made total sense. And human vision is more “widescreen” than 3:2, so that’s another reason.

    But as you say, “people do tend to stick to defaults.”

    Here’s to hoping we aren’t all stuck in some big default.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Which is my biggest “default” at the moment.


    • Do people still print photos anymore?! Yes, I guess they do. I’m sure there’s a fairly decent selection of frames and printing services that cater for the 16:9 shooter though. I’m not convinced that that is the prime reason people shoot in 3:2. I am still inclined to think people shoot 3:2 by default.

      What do you shoot Kim? What holds you back from switching to 16:9? Assuming your camera gives you the option…not all do.


      • Kim G says:

        I’m still using my trusty Canon EOS 30D which shoots in 3:2. I’ve now had that camera for six or eight years. Though newer cameras are better at JPEG processing, I’ve invested in some nice glass for the Canon, so I imagine that I’ll keep using it for some time yet. So far it’s still working fine. My only complaint is that its JPEG processing sometimes produces weird colors. But otherwise it makes nice photos.

        That said, I’ve been eying some smaller cameras like the Canon G1 X, or maybe the latest powershot. I’ve taken many a fine photo with a humble Powershot G3.

        And I think the megapixel wars are ridiculous. The EOS is 8 MP, and I can’t imagine needing more.



        • Canon do have a Compact System Camera out now, the EOS M. That should take your lenses. But I’m not sure the EOS M is quite the finished article. Maybe the replacement will bring Canon’s CSC up to the standard of the competition.

          I think the mega pixel wars are largely over for cameras. The more mps the better but only if the cameras sensor can cope with them. These days, the mp war seems to have moved into the mobile arena.

          You have a great camera though. I wouldn’t be that much in a rush to replace it if it were mine.*

          *We both know this is a lie. It could be the greatest camera ever, but my eye is easily turned by the latest shiny thing…


        • Kim G says:

          I’m still happy with the EOS (aside from it’s rather corpulent weight), and since I shoot in RAW + JPEG, I do indeed have the best of both worlds.

          That said, I have my eye on a G-12. Though if the G-3 hadn’t stopped working, it’d probably be fine too. Despite only 4 megapixels, with the various controls I could take very nice pictures with it.

          What I don’t get is that the G12 is half the price of a G-15.


        • The G15 has a much brighter lens, f1.8 v f2.8. And it’s a newer model, so isn’t that all the way with pricing. I’ve always liked the G range bar one teeny weeny thing. It’s the least compact compact you can buy.


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