Vertical Images and Battery Grips for Digital Cameras

Why shoot vertical images?

Something I try to do on a regular basis is shoot both horizontal and vertical images of a scene. There are a number of reasons for this, but my primary reason is that most magazines and books use lots of vertical images. Magazine covers are verticals. Books are mostly vertical. One exception I can think of is web sites that tend to use more horizontal images.

"Down The Gorge" captured by Mitch Johanson. (Click image to see more from Mitch Johanson.)

“Down The Gorge” captured by Mitch Johanson. (Click image to see more from Mitch Johanson.)

Vertical images stand out in a world where most people grab their camera and just shoot horizontal photos. I think part of the reason for this is that most cameras are designed to be held in the horizontal orientation and, let’s face it, holding them vertically can be a challenge. I can tell you from experience that after a day of shooting verticals my right wrist is very sore.

We look at these photos on our horizontal computer monitors and watch videos on our horizontal televisions. Perhaps with new tools like iPads and smartphones, which offer rotating screens to accommodate both vertical and horizontal images, this will change.

Of course the subject can make a difference as well. Out of interest, I looked at the 2,425 general photographs of France that are available in my stock portfolio, and 1053 of these are verticals (about 43%). This feels about right for me, many of the subjects have been covered well for many possible uses. In another instance, I looked at photographs of live music performances and found what I expected: about 75 percent of what I shot are verticals. This makes sense to me as well, as I shoot many images of individual performers and they tend to be vertical.

Analyzing how you shoot can also be a good way to understand where you need to make changes in your habits. I find when I shoot aerial photos that only about 25 percent of what I shoot are verticals. This is probably not good as many of the aerial photos I sell are verticals, but at the same time, shooting both horizontal and vertical images of all the subjects would likely cost me quite a bit more money. This is one of the reasons I upgraded to the Nikon D800. With its 36.3 megapixel sensor, I can easily crop a horizontal aerial photo to a vertical if needed.

From a stock perspective, if I have both horizontal and vertical images of the same scene available, I’ve likely doubled my chances of making a sale. I find too, from a compositional standpoint, that vertical images are often stronger. Maybe to make life easier in the future we should start shooting in the square format again. The old Hasselblads were wonderful tools; the images stood out because they were different.

So, what is your preference: horizontal or vertical? Maybe if you aren’t shooting verticals you should start exploring the possibilities.

"Venezia" captured by Jaideep Singh Rai. (Click image to see more from Jaideep Singh Rai.)

“Venezia” captured by Jaideep Singh Rai. (Click image to see more from Jaideep Singh Rai.)

Battery Grips

Want a vertical grip to make shooting a little easier? Many high end professional cameras have both horizontal and vertical grips and shutter releases built into the body, but these cameras are both very expensive ($6,000 range) and very heavy. Another option is to purchase a battery grip with the additional vertical shutter release made by many of the DSLR manufacturers like Nikon and Canon. You put them on when you require a vertical shutter release or additional battery power and remove them if you need a more compact or lighter system. Aftermarket battery grips are also available from a number of manufacturers at very reasonable costs. I have one of these for my Nikon D800, and while it may not be quite as nicely made as the Nikon it works well and has never given me any problems.

I tend to carry my battery grip specifically for certain assignments when I can use it to its advantage. For example, for live music where I shoot many verticals I find that the ease of shooting vertically makes carrying the extra weight worthwhile. Often I’m in a position where I can put the camera down on a regular basis and don’t have to lug the extra weight around all day. The D800 grip (and all the others) also has an additional battery so that I don’t have to switch batteries as often, which can be a huge factor if shooting video or shooting from boats or aircraft. There is nothing worse than running out of power at the decisive moment! While I see many photographers carrying cameras with grips permanently attached, to me that defeats the purpose of owning them. I tend to leave the grip at home when I’m traveling light and need to watch the amount of gear that I carry or when I’m using a tripod and the grip is of no benefit to the shooting experience. If you don’t require a grip, don’t use it!

About the Author:
Kevin Oke is a professional nature and travel photographer with over 30 years experience. When not traveling he writes on his blogs, Nature Travel Photography and Kevin Oke Photography.

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One Comment

  1. Tony Boicelli says:

    I actually use the battery grip for medical reasons, I was diagnosed with essential tremors a year ago and although medications have helped, the smaller and lighter an item is that I’m holding the more pronounced the tremors are. By purposely making the camera bigger and heavier my hands are steadier and my pictures are better! And heck, having double the battery life is a bonus.

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