Marieke ten Wolde's blog

Documentary photography, and other things interesting enough to bother you with

The panoramic format in documentary photography

with one comment

Last week I was asked (again), why do you use the panoramic format for so many of your photographs? Well, why do I do that? I sometimes wonder myself. It is not very handy; it is difficult to get published in magazines, it does not easily fit into books, there are no standard sized frames available, sometimes my film is messed up when the lab tries to cut my film, scanning is not straight forward etc etc. Normally I am quite a practical person, so why this rather ‘difficult’ format’?

Of course the very simple answer is, I like it. But why do I like it?

The panoramic format is not just a very long photo. Some photographers use it like that, just using the format to show a row of (often similar) things. This can be interesting, but to me also becomes boring very quickly. The same holds for images depicting something long and broad, like a row of houses, a train platform, etc.

The format becomes more interesting if the length is used to aid the composition or to show more information about the environment than would otherwise be possible, or to hold the clue of the image in one of the corners, so it is not revealed immediately. This does not mean that the picture could not contain ‘empty’ area’s, these could be used to add some quietness or to contrast with other parts in the image.

The worst composition for a panoramic format, in my eyes, is the picture where the main subject is placed somewhere in the middle and the image gives the impression that too much is included. The type of pictures that would be better off if cropped into the more common 2:3 or even square format.

Another way to compose a panoramic format image is to comprise more pictures into one picture. The picture could be cut into 2 or sometimes even 3 parts and each part of the picture could stand alone as well. A good panoramic image would then be the image where the sum of the parts is stronger than the individual parts. Jens Olof Lasthein in a master in these types of compositions, see some of his photo’s below.


Written by Marieke ten Wolde

October 14, 2011 at 21:30

One Response

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  1. Thanks for sharing this post with us,nice post.good work and good luck


    May 22, 2013 at 12:44

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