Landscape vs. Portrait Photography:

How to Choose the Best Photo Orientation

Capturing the perfect photograph often boils down to making the right choices, and one of the fundamental decisions in photography is selecting the orientation for your shot. Whether you're aiming to capture a sweeping landscape or the intimate details of your pet's face, the orientation you choose can make a significant difference in the final result.

In this guide, we'll walk you through what landscape and portrait orientations are, when to use them, and provide you with valuable tips to help you make the right choice for your images. We'll also recommend the best cameras for capturing both landscape and portrait photographs, with the help of Product Specialist Lizzie James at Jessops.


What is landscape orientation?

What is portrait orientation?

When should you use landscape photography?

When should you use portrait photography?

Tips on how to choose photo orientation

What are the best camera settings for landscape photography?

What are the best camera settings for portrait photography?

Best cameras for landscape photography

Best cameras for portrait photography

What is landscape orientation?

Landscape orientation, in simpler terms, is images or pages where the width is notably more than the height. Imagine looking at a horizon; the elongated view you observe from left to right mirrors what landscape orientation seeks to capture in visuals: a broad and expansive view.

What is portrait orientation?

Portrait orientation is when the height of an image or page is more than its width. It’s the taller, narrower counterpart to landscape orientation.

In photography, portrait orientation allows the photographer to focus more on vertical elements or depth, like capturing a person from head to toe, showcasing a towering skyscraper, or even emphasising the height of a waterfall.

When should you use landscape photography?

Landscape photography is all about capturing wider, fuller scenes in your photos. Here’s a breakdown of when you might opt for this orientation:

Wide horizons – Choose landscape mode when you’re faced with broad views like ocean horizons or long mountain ranges. This orientation allows you to capture the full breadth of these expansive scenes.

Detailed landscapes – For shots of forests, valleys, or any scene with a lot of elements to capture at once, landscape can help you fit everything in. This way, viewers get a full, detailed picture.

Group photographs – Snapping a group of friends? Landscape orientation helps you fit everyone in without having to stand too far back. It allows for a relaxed, natural-looking photo where everyone can be seen.

Architectural and street photography – When photographing broad buildings or busy streets, landscape orientation allows you to grasp the atmosphere and scope.

When should you use portrait photography?

Portrait photography emphasises the vertical aspects of a scene or subject. Here are instances where portrait orientation could be your go-to:

Portraits – When focusing on a single subject, like a person or pet, portrait mode helps keep attention where it should be. It allows you to capture expressive facial features or detailed outfits without unnecessary distractions.

Tall subjects – For capturing subjects that are tall and stand out, like big trees or statues, portrait orientation shines a spotlight on them, making sure their height is highlighted and gets the attention it deserves in your photo.

Detailed close-ups – When highlighting details, such as intricate jewellery or the delicate wings of a butterfly, portrait orientation provides a clean stage for these elements to take centre stage. This focus ensures that details aren’t lost or overshadowed by other distracting aspects in the frame.

Fashion photography – Fashion photography goes beyond just displaying an outfit; it also conveys the mood, setting, and personality of the model. Using portrait orientation allows you to showcase the whole outfit from head to toe.

Tips on how to choose photo orientation

Lizzie says, “The choice between portrait and landscape orientations is often determined by the specifics of the scene you’re shooting. In all cases, the setting and your photographer’s eye will influence the decision.”

Here are some tips for picking which orientation to use: 

Think about your subject

“Whether it's a sunset or a close-up of a person, understanding your subject is key,” explains Lizzie. “Asking yourself what you want to highlight most in your photograph will guide your orientation choice. If it’s a wide, panoramic view, landscape might be the way to go. If it’s a single subject or detail, portrait could prove more effective.”

Consider where your photo will be used

“Think about where and how the photo will be used,” says Lizzie, “For example, if it’s going to be a cover photo for a social media profile, landscape orientation might work better. If it’s for your mobile wallpaper, portrait may be more suitable.”

Understand the rule of thirds

“Understanding the basic rules of composition, like the rule of thirds, can definitely help you determine the orientation to use,” says Lizzie.

“Imagine your image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines, crafting a grid that provides visual guidance for composition.”

“If placing the subject along or near the horizontal lines creates a balanced and compelling image, then a landscape orientation might work well. If aligning the subject along or near the vertical lines seems more appealing or natural, then portrait orientation may be best”

Here are some examples that show how you can use the rule of thirds to decide your photo orientation:

Landscape orientation

In this shot, the sea and the seagulls effortlessly find their place within the middle third of the photo, while the lines organically follow the gentle curves of the sea's horizon. It's a prime example of why landscape orientation is often the natural choice for capturing wide, sweeping scenes like this.

Portrait orientation

In this image, the owl takes a prominent position, slightly off-centre within the frame, to allow for the inclusion of the tree stump at the bottom. This adds depth and interest to the composition. 

Portrait orientation feels like the perfect fit here as it complements the owl's height, naturally guiding the viewer's gaze upward along the vertical lines in the frame.

Think about the story you want to tell

Consider what orientation will help you tell your story best. 

Lizzie explains: “If you want to capture an individual moment, emotion, or detail, portrait might convey intimacy and focus. If you want to provide context, showcasing an environment or a group, landscape may provide a broader storytelling canvas.”

Play with perspectives

Lizzie says, “Don’t be afraid to try both landscape and portrait! Sometimes, the unexpected orientation can bring a fresh and exciting perspective to a well-known scene or subject. 

Remember, not all scenarios need to strictly conform to guidelines; a busy street may present a compelling portrait shot, while a close-up of a flower might shine in landscape.”

What are the best camera settings for landscape photography?

Most cameras come with a dedicated landscape or portrait mode, which will automatically optimise settings like aperture, shutter speed, and focus to suit the specific requirements of each scene. But, if you want more control over your images, it’s a good idea to explore the manual settings and experiment with different combinations to achieve the perfect shot.

Here are some key settings to consider for capturing beautiful landscape images:

Aperture (depth of field) — Opt for a higher aperture (f/8 to f/16) to maximise depth of field. This ensures that both the foreground and background elements are in focus, making the entire landscape sharp and detailed.

Shutter speed (how fast your camera takes a photo) — If you're shooting moving landscapes, like running water, you'll want to use a fast (short) shutter speed, like 1/125 or faster, to avoid motion blur. But, if you actually want to capture the movement in waterfalls, for example, try using a slower (long) shutter speed like 1/2, 1, 2, or even several seconds.

ISO (sensitivity to light) — Use the lowest ISO setting (100 or 200) to maintain image quality and minimise noise (grain). Lower ISO settings result in cleaner, less grainy images.

To learn more, read our guide on how to shoot in manual camera mode.

What are the best camera settings for portrait photography?

Here are some important settings for capturing stunning portrait images:

Aperture — It’s best to choose a low aperture setting, like f/1.8 or f/2.8, to achieve a shallow depth of field. This blurs the background (bokeh) and makes your subject stand out.

Shutter speed — Keep the shutter speed relatively fast (around 1/125 to 1/250 seconds) to avoid motion blur, especially if you or your subject tend to move. If you’re using a stabilising device like a tripod, you can lower the shutter speed.

ISO — Start with a low ISO (100 or 200) in well-lit conditions to minimise noise and maintain image quality. This is ideal for capturing the fine details of the subject's face and skin. In low-light situations, you may need to increase the ISO (400 to 800) to ensure a properly exposed shot. However, be mindful of noise as you raise the ISO.

Best cameras for landscape photography

“For landscape photography, the most important features to look for in a camera are high resolution and a large sensor to capture all the intricate details, especially if you're planning to print those breathtaking landscapes in larger formats,” explains Lizzie.

“If your photography escapades often lead you through forests or unpredictable weather conditions, it's also essential to consider a camera with weather resistance.”

Here are the best cameras for landscape photography with these features in mind:

Sony a7R IV A Mirrorless Camera Body | £2,999

“With its 61 megapixels full-frame sensor, this Sony mirrorless camera offers exceptionally high resolution, ideal for landscape photographers who want to capture fine details and produce large, high-quality prints”, says Lizzie.

The silent shooting feature is also handy for wildlife photography in landscapes. It enables quiet picture-taking, preventing animals from being startled or scared away.

Read our Sony camera buying guide to learn more.

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Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Camera Body | £3,799

“The Canon EOS R5 is the obvious choice for landscapes,” says Lizzie. “It's equipped with a 45-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, which is a type of image sensor that captures high-resolution photographs with excellent detail and clarity. This camera also comes with a powerful DIGIC X processor, a specialised computer chip that enhances image quality, reduces noise, and helps process images quickly for better overall performance.”

“Plus, it's great for video, too! The camera can capture 12-bit RAW video internally at 8K resolution, ideal for preserving the beauty of landscapes in motion.”

The magnesium-alloy body and protective seals also guard against dust and moisture, keeping your camera safe when you're exploring deserts or scaling hills to capture the perfect landscape shot.

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Best cameras for portrait photography

Lizzie says: “For portrait photography, there are two key things you should be looking for in a camera: high megapixels to capture intricate details and a full-frame sensor, making it easier to get the background blur and bokeh to help make the subject stand out.”


“Autofocus also comes in handy, especially when shooting people or animals, as it allows you to quickly regain focus if your subjects move, ensuring your portraits are sharp.”


Here are some of the top camera choices for shooting in portrait orientation:

Nikon Z 7II Mirrorless Camera Body | £3,099

"The Nikon Z 7II is a great camera for portrait photography because it has some really helpful features that allow you to spend less time worrying about the settings and more time concentrating on your subject," explains Lizzie.

"This camera boasts an eye-detection autofocus feature, ensuring that your subject's eyes are always in focus, whether you're taking photos or shooting videos. This means you can produce sharp portraits, even if your subject moves during the shoot."

The 45.7-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor preserves fine details in your portraits. This level of resolution allows you to create highly detailed and lifelike images, perfect for producing stunning prints or digital portfolios.

It can also capture a wide range of tones, even in challenging lighting conditions, whether it's very bright (high ISO) or very dark (low ISO). This ensures that your portraits have well-balanced highlights and shadows, resulting in beautiful and natural-looking images.

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Sony a7R V Mirrorless Camera Body | £3,499

Lizzie explains: “If you're searching for a camera that excels in capturing intricate details in portrait photos, this Sony mirrorless camera is the perfect choice.”

“Thanks to its 61-megapixel back-illuminated full-frame sensor and the powerful BIONZ XR™ image processing engine, responsible for enhancing the captured image data, this camera delivers exceptional detail and colour accuracy, even when you're dealing with challenging lighting conditions.”

It also features advanced AI-driven technology that enables accurate and consistent real-time autofocus tracking of subjects. It can even recognise and track the eyes of various subjects, be it humans, animals, birds or insects, ensuring that you can effortlessly maintain focus.

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Improve your landscape or portrait photography with Jessops

At Jessops, we have a wide range of cameras, perfect for both landscape and portrait photography, from leading brands like Sony, Canon and Nikon

If you're new to photography, check out our beginner's guide to choosing the best digital camera, or if you're looking for more advice and inspiration, discover our blog. If you have any questions or you're unsure about which product is right for you, contact us today.

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