Square v. Portrait

This photo I put on on Instagram last week turned out to be one of my more liked posts.

Windows on Instagram

Though I’m a sporadic Instagram user, I think it’s an amazing product. Their early selection of the square photo format was a genius response to the constraints of the camera phone and a spot on insight into how to simplify photo composition for a mass audience.

All the same, I often lament the success of the Instagram square. Rectangles just make pictorial storytelling more interesting. Here’s how I would have cropped the same image in a portrait-oriented frame. (I had to recreate the vintage effects, so they don’t match the photo above perfectly.)

Windows Portrait

I’m not arguing that Instagram should allow portrait images. I’m just saying the world is more interesting than just squares.



  1. Indeed the first version looks more interesting to my eyes in terms of composition. There’s enough of the facade to suggest a seemingly endless building and the space on the right of the person leaves room for the direction she’s looking at. So that we can ideally trace a diagonal from top left to bottom right.

    P.S any chance we can see this site being responsive? It’s a pain to leave comments using my phone. I wish I could comment directly from my RSS reader.
    Is there one that let you do so?

  2. It also works quite well as ‘branding’. Instagram = squares. It’s as simple as that. (Although, portrait format would work quite nicely for them too. I’m not a big fan of landscape format on IG – it’s just too small). I always chuckle when I see people using big DSLRs to shoot little pics on IG.

  3. I’ve noticed a number of Instagram users I follow are now posting letterboxed photos so they appear rectangular, either landscape or portrait. They definitely stand out among a sea of squares.

  4. I do like the square format of your picture, if anything I would love to see it larger.

    I rather have square pictures in instagram, more than letterboxed ones, for me it is part of the fun of composing for that app. Whenever I need to post some other format I end up in flickr.

  5. Yeah sometimes squares just don’t cut it. I have cheated in the past and post edited photos occasionally by adding black bars to maintain the original photo’s dimensions.

  6. While I tend to agree that the square format of IG is irritating sometimes, I think your square photo is more dynamically composed.
    The woman placed in an extreme position in the frame and allows the negative space of the building to accentuate her position. It also increases the tension leaving the viewer to wonder what she is “looking” at. Lovely!

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