Composition Tips for Square Photographs


Setting up your photographs for square compositions can be a challenge from traditional rectangular compositions, requiring a different understanding of composition techniques in order to capture a great image. At Shutterstock Custom, we receive client requests for square images from our contributors on many of our briefs. The client may be utilizing the square image for a specific marketing purpose, or to post the content on social media. Understanding the composition of  square photography versus a vertical or horizontal rectangular frame is worthwhile if you shoot any of these assignments frequently.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are composing a square photography frame.

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Achieving Balance with 1:1 Compositions

The use of line within a composition often draws the eye to a particular portion of the frame, and the same is with square compositions. Because each side is equal in length, your eye is encouraged to move around the whole frame, whereas in landscape you’re encouraged to move side to side or in portrait your eye will move up and down. Because an eye will view a square image in a circle, you need to ensure each piece works together and balances the frame.

Keep Square Compositions Simple

Because there is less negative space to work with in a square composition, “less is more” is an approach you should have when it comes to composition within a square. For photographs to have impact, you want there to be a focal point for your audience to focus on. By keeping it simple, you allow your audience to clearly see where you want them to view within the frame.

Compose your image in the centre

An effective go-to composition for square photography is to put the subject in the centre of the frame. While the rule of thirds composition rule applies to most areas of photography, within a square it’s trickier as you don’t have as much space on the sides to work with. The less noise there is within the frame, the more effective placing a subject in the centre becomes. Centring your composition in the middle is another great way to achieve symmetry in your images. 

Find a frame within the frame

Find shapes in your environment to create a frame within the frame. This is a great way to include more in a square photograph without over complicating it. Look for anything architectural such as windows or arches or elements of nature such as trees or flowers. You can also use props to achieve this for still life photography. Framing within a composition can add a sense of depth and complexity to your images that draws your audience’s eye in.

Find complimentary colors to pull focus to your subject

Finding complimentary colors within your brief theme is a great way to pull focus back to your subject when you have less space to work with. By creating color contrasts, even if they are lightly contrasted, you can create impactful imagery through the use of color instead of space. Be selective on the colors you choose, and ensure that they match the brief theme that you are shooting for. 

We hope these tips help you on the next assignment where square compositions are requested. Have any other tips you’d like to share? Comment them below. For inspiration, check out our Instagram where we post a variety of square compositions from our global network of contributors.

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