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Landscape vs Portrait

Published: 30/09/2021

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Photographers can decide whether to shoot in portrait or landscape. However, you need to differentiate landscape vs portrait to ensure you choose the appropriate orientation and composition for your real estate photography. This is why we're going to see their similarities and differences to determine their best time to use.

Landscape vs Portrait: General Overview

As you venture into the world of photography, you will continuously hear the words landscape and portrait for shooting modes and printing photos. These two are important concepts in an image, so let's first take a closer look into how they apply in general photography.


Landscape refers to the horizontal orientation used in taking photos. It has a more extended width than height, creating a horizontal shape with the top and bottom edges taller than the sides.

In photography, it's a compositional element where the broader perspective enables you to capture more of the scene. Consequently, the subject tends to be broader than taller, making it the preferable angle for nature and environmental shots.

The word landscape comes from the Dutch word landschap, which means land or region. It evolved into a painting term for drawing vast sceneries. This is why real estate photographers commonly apply landscape because it captures a broad space and ensures all necessary subjects are in a single shot. 

Portrait shot of a modern high ceiling interior


On the other hand, a portrait is a vertical orientation used in capturing images. Instead of a longer width, it has taller sides and height. Thus, it produces a vertical shape with the sides longer than the top and base.

It comes from the Old French word portret, which translates to depict or to draw. In visual arts, a portrait serves as a representation of a person's head and upper body. This is why traditionally, a portrait represents a person's image from the shoulders upwards.

A lot of photography niches highly incorporate portrait orientation, including events, lifestyle, and of course, portraiture and headshots. These niches use a portrait perspective to crop the scene, minimizing background and putting more focus on the subject.

Landscape vs Portrait

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, the global photographic services market projects a $44.07 billion growth in 2025. 

With companies recovering from the economic impact, service providers are exploring opportunities to boost market value. This includes businesses looking to invest in landscapes, aerial photography, and photojournalism.

With that said, it's vital that you ramp up your skills to attract more clients and secure bookings. Among those much-needed skills is understanding compositional elements, including the best orientation to use in a given situation.

Similarities Between Landscape and Portrait

The Federal Reserve's efforts to put trillions of dollars into the financial markets result in lower consumer borrowing costs. In effect, the average rate on fixed mortgages hovers at 3%, attracting first-time and repeat homebuyers.

With more opportunities for people to own homes, this also opens potential jobs for photographers to work with realtors and agents.

Even in real estate photography, photographers can use both portrait and landscape orientations to compose a shot. While these two have varying effects, they still share similar aspects.

  • Image orientation: In general, page orientation refers to how you view, display, or print a document. Landscape and portrait are the 2 types of orientation. Image orientation also uses landscape and portrait to describe the way a photo appears on screen or print.
  • Genre: Portrait and landscape are photography categories that you can use to frame and capture a subject's appearance, style, and emotions. Both follow compositional guidelines, including the rule of thirds, symmetry, depth, patterns, and angles.
  • Camera mode: DSLR cameras, mirrorless cameras, and smartphones all offer landscape and portrait shooting modes. This makes them both pre-programmed photo settings for composing a scene and taking photos. Both serve as automatic shooting modes that manipulate a camera's exposure settings.
  • Digital application: Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram offer both portrait and landscape uploads. The same applies to listing websites, like MLS, that have size upload requirements. Depending on how well you want the visuals to take up screen coverage, you can use these image orientations when uploading pictures and videos.

Differences Between Landscape and Portrait

Photographers have the creative freedom to choose whether to use portrait or landscape orientation when taking real estate pictures. However, distinguishing their differences can help make better decisions when composing a shot.

Vertical shot of a modern fireplace

Camera Movement

When taking a landscape photo, you need to hold a DSLR camera's body in its natural, horizontal orientation. Meanwhile, you must rotate the camera to 90 degrees and hold it upright to shoot in portrait mode. 

Smartphones automatically provide a portrait orientation because of their dimensions. This means that you have to hold a phone in a horizontal perspective to shift to landscape mode. 

Aspect Ratio

While you can resize images in Lightroom, there are still recommendable aspect ratios for landscape and portrait shots so that the subjects won't look too elongated or crammed.

For example, 5:4, 4:3, and 3:2 are the most ideal for portraits to ensure quality. This is also the default format for 35mm film, as well as full-frame and crop-sensor cameras. 

On the other hand, 3:2, 16:9, and 12:6 are the most common for landscape images as these provide a more expansive view.

Equipment Requirements

Portrait photography typically uses 50mm to 200mm lenses because these focal ranges capture waist-level to full-length portrait photos. Even if you're not far away from the subject, you can easily remove surrounding objects and isolate the subject for bokeh.

Conversely, the best wide-angle lens provides the necessary broad perspective for landscape photography. You can also use zoom lenses, although ideally, it shouldn't go beyond 70mm.

Compositional Focus

While you can capture any scene using both image orientations, it's still a photographer's job to determine whether it's more appropriate to shoot the subject in a vertical or horizontal view. After all, this compositional element can also make or break the photo.

A portrait's tall sides enable you to get a tighter shot, as you can decide what to include or exclude in the frame. In contrast, a landscape shot lets you capture more of the background, foreground, and objects near the subject.

Luxury home prices continue to increase by 1.6% year over year. If your photo's message aims to convey grandeur, a landscape shot can most likely capture the size and architectural details in a single click.

Background Elements and Space Differences

A portrait format creates more prominent vertical leading lines, while landscape orientation focuses on horizontal lines and perspective. When shooting portraits, you can make the tall lines appear never-ending, whereas landscapes can crop the lines. 

The available space is a major distinction between portraits and landscapes. The broader area you capture in an image creates a feeling of balance and more room to breathe.

The tall edges and shorter width form a sense of visual elongation and compression when it comes to portraits. In effect, it puts the subject more forward and regal.

Emotional Impact

About 65% of real estate market consumers are married couples. This is why marketing efforts target this demographic's psychological level by showing properties that can provide a healthy environment for family living.

As a photographer, you can apply an emotional appeal by using image orientations to stimulate emotions from potential homebuyers. In a portrait shot, you can make a staircase look majestic, while shooting it in the landscape mode may make it look smaller or frail.

When you shoot a bedroom in a horizontal layout, you can cover the broadness of the space, making it look more livable. However, taking a vertical shot would crop the area and make the room appear smaller.

Visual Emphasis

Despite the average sale price of new homes increasing since 2011, the market sees a continuing rise in home sales. This includes 6.5 million houses sold in America in 2020. Part of the success comes from the effectiveness of marketing visuals.

However, there are instances where realtors only have a few seconds to make an impression. This is why image orientation plays a significant role in visual emphasis.

  • Portrait exaggerates a subject's upright extension.
  • Portrait helps the viewer's eye associate the shot with tall objects and their supposed meanings. For example, a portrait shot taken below the subject would radiate superiority and magnificence.
  • Portraiture of a person, with no props or nearby objects, would manifest a sense of independence.
  • A landscape shot needs to use the extra space to illustrate the feeling of a greater distance.
  • Depending on your shooting position and type of lens, a horizontal perspective may make a subject either look smaller or grander.

Challenges in Real Estate Photography

While the world of photography has compositional guidelines and recommended shooting settings, there's still a lot of room to experiment with the way you take photos.

A landscape photo of a bedroom

However, real estate photography has its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to compositions.

  • While you can use a tripod for stability, taking videos in landscape mode is easier, especially for an aerial shoot.
  • While a portrait orientation can be challenging to use in wide areas, you may be able to apply it for property amenities with unique shapes or patterns, such as path walks. 
  • Most properties don't look well in portrait orientation. However, some marketing materials or listing websites may require a vertical format. Look for a feature that would look strong in a portrait, like a fireplace or a chandelier.
  • It can also be sometimes difficult to include reflections in a vertical angle, so it would be better to shift to horizontal for such conditions.
  • Similarly, landscapes may not be able to create a long-distance illustration. It's best to use a vertical angle to highlight the distance from the gate up to the porch.

Major Distinguishing Factor

The main difference between landscape and portrait orientation is that portrait features a taller perspective and vertical layout, whereas landscape has a broader perspective and horizontal layout. Portraits have longer sides, while landscapes contain longer top and bottom sides.

When talking about photography, landscape typically refers to sceneries, including the land, waters, sky, and massive structures. Meanwhile, a portrait usually indicates a photo that shows a detailed visual description of a person.

When to Use Landscape

As the name implies, the most practical application for landscape orientation is for landscape photography. A landscape orientation also applies to other niches, especially street, nature, architecture, and real estate photography.

If you're usually photographing subjects like mountain ranges, bodies of water, vast skies, and other similar sceneries, shooting in landscape enables you to create a dramatic effect while capturing several elements in a single frame.

You can also use landscape for street and event photography, especially when photographing groups of people and other objects. The same applies if you want to fit in more of the background or foreground. Still, you can maximize the horizontal angle by putting negative space for a more minimalist effect.

When to Use Portrait

As the name suggests, it's best to use portrait orientation for shooting environments where you need a tighter and taller perspective. YYou can typically apply this vertical angle for studio portraits, full-body photos, solo pictures at events, and even a photoshoot of your cute little Staffordshire Bull terrier and other dog breeds.

You can still use portrait orientation when shooting sceneries, buildings, and other structures, especially if you want to diversify the angles. In the same way, it's suitable to use a portrait perspective to cut out an unaesthetic background.

There are about 1,906 portrait photographers in America, with 7% working in the real estate industry. Thus, you can also use a vertical format in real estate shoots if it can help make a property's features look more appealing.

The Verdict

Landscape and portrait are essential compositional elements in real estate photography. However, it's more fitting to shoot in landscape for the majority of properties because of a structure's dimensions and space. You can focus on portraits if you're shooting agent profiles.

Keep in mind that the decision to shoot in landscape or portrait depends on the subject, image purpose, surrounding elements, lighting conditions, and even your photography style. Either way, they are both creative ways of creating stunning photos and videos for general photography.