No sooner did I finish reading and reviewing Andrew S Gibson’s eBook titled “Beyond Thirds” that was released over at Craft & Vision, did the pre-release version of “Square” arrive to read and review. Unfortunately I was not able to have a review finished in time for the launch of the book, but better late than never.
In “Beyond Thirds”, Gibson explored the various composition “rules” and how the eye moves through a well composed image. The section he wrote about and demonstrated how different image formats affected the composition and “feeling” of an image was particularly interesting to me. It had to have been interesting to him as well; this book is proof of that. To be honest I have never shot in a square format before, and I rarely crop images that way, but there is something interesting about it that captures my attention. Apps like Instagram are playful tools that have ignited more interest in the square format. There is something about it that is just, fun.
In broad strokes what Gibson is trying to carry out with this book is a few things. There are two unofficial sections with the first being more about the concept and technique, and the second being more about creative play and ideas. I will call these two informal sections Technique and Creativity.
- History. A look at the history of the square format to gain an appreciation for how it has been used in the past.
- Going Square.To review the various methods you can use to get a square image (there are many). This can be anything from shooting a designated film body, to intentional framing and cropping with a digital camera. For one project that I shot I even used Gaffers tape on my LCD screen to help me better visualize the square format.
- Design & Balance. To review what he calls Design & Balance, basically how you use the square space compositionally, and how you want to move the viewer’s eye through the image.
- Shape. To understand the power of shape, not just meaning the square frame, but the elements in the image, and how they interact differently in the square format than they may in the rectangular format.
- the 4 S’s. The introduction of the “4 S’s” of composition for the square format: Shape, Simplicity, Space & Subtlety.
- Black & White. The role that colour can play (or not, in the case of Black & White) in the square format. Of particular interest to me, at least, is an image that is processed in both a Colour version and a Black & White version (Seen below in this post). Which do you prefer? I like them both, but for different reasons.
- A Case Study of Photographer Matt Toynbee and his square format work. A great discussion of his mindset and approach, and for his preference to work in Black & White (and split toning). Interesting.
- Vertoramas. I hadn’t heard (or really thought about) the term before. A similar process to a panorama, just shooting vertical “portrait” images instead of traditional horizontal images, and then stitching them together after the fact. There is also a link to a photoshop tutorial.
- A Creative Edge. The use of borders to define the image.
- Framing. Printing, Framing and Matting of the square format, some considerations
- Creative Layout. An example of a different layout option for a series of images.
- Diptyches & Triptyches. Basically the joining of two or three images into one file (side by side). Useful for creative display.
- Instagram. A quick discussion on the platform. I love that this is in here.
- Holga Lenses. There is a way to adapt a Holga lens to fit on a DSLR. While that is not covered specifically, general use of a Holga lens is discussed.
- Case Study: Flavia Schaller. Another great Black & White square format photographer and some samples of her work and what she uses.
Square is the natural follow-up to Beyond Thirds. In Square, I delve deep into the mysteries of the square format. Back before digital, the only way you could use the square format (cropping excluded) was to buy a 6×6 medium format camera. Now, digital cameras have opened up the square format to anybody who doesn’t mind taking the trouble to crop their images in Photoshop. But using the square format isn’t simply a matter of cropping – there’s a lot more to it than that. The square format demands a new approach to composition. The rule-of-thirds (which readers of Beyond Thirds will know I’m not too fond of in the first place anyway) no longer applies.Square explores the square format from the digital photographer’s perspective. It shows you how to use the square format on your camera, and how to make the most out of what I think of as the fine art photographer’s format. It’s illustrated throughout by my photos, and I’ve also interviewed the two film photographers, Matt Toynbee and Flavia Schaller, to explore their perspective on the square format.
If you have any interest in learning more about the Square format, than I suggest giving this book a read especially if you are approaching this from the Digital Photography end. While not an exhaustive volume on the subject or equipment, it does offer a view of what is a different world or way of seeing things for most of us.