Square Roots: Why I Love Shooting in Square Format


The 35mm rectangle reigned supreme throughout my youth – it’s all I knew. What better way to rebel than by adopting the square! Here are my five top tips for shooting in square format.

Years ago, when a was a kid at school I remember asking my science teacher why photos were rectangular and not circular – after all, the lens is round, so why aren’t the photos? If memory serves me correctly I didn’t get a straight answer and was promptly dispatched on some errand. You can see my thinking though, can’t you? At least a square would make more sense of a round lens. I was then distracted by the latest Duran Duran single and/or a pony so didn’t pay it any more attentention for a number of years.

Looking back now it’s easy to see why scientists and manufacturers strived to create a rectangular solution; the old-fashioned square photos were all very well but the pages of books and magazines were rectangular, as were landscapes, people, buildings… almost everything – rectangles just made sense – there was no room for those silly old squares any more.

Cut to a few years later – I’m at art college and have discovered medium format film for the first time. I’m so, so happy! Something about an image being square instead of rectangular felt amazingly subversive and rebellious somehow – a world with no landscape and no portrait – this was punk, this was the future!

And today? Today I have my medium-format Lomography cameras; Diana F+, Lubitel 2, as well as a Polaroid or two – and I am in love with the square format as ever.

Except now of course it seems that everyone is shooting photos with retro camera apps on their phones and the square format has once more become the norm. Hmmm, makes me hanker after the days of the rectangle!

Some quick tips for shooting in square format:

  1. Hold the camera however you like – there is no portrait or landscape now!
  2. The ‘rule of thirds’ belongs to the world of rectangles – use it if you like but I like to create my own rules (the rule of halves works well in a square format).
  3. Things that are framed dead-center will look much more striking in a square format.
  4. If you’re presented with something very wide or very tall (i.e. the Eiffel Tower) to photograph, don’t panic! Think differently, try concentrating on a small detail of the bigger scene – chances are you’ll come away with a shot that’s a lot less like everybody else’s.
  5. When you’re displaying your images – whether on a website or in real life – it’s ever so easy to create a nice layout when everything is square.

The Diana F+ is a new twist on the ‘60s classic cult camera. Famous for its dreamy and soft-focused images, the Diana F+ is now packed with extra features such as panorama and pinhole capabilities. Available in our Online Shop.

written by angie_lemon on 2012-04-02 #gear #tutorials #film #120 #tips #lubitel #square #tipster #diana


  1. lamp
    lamp ·

    Yay for the squares! I love 'em :)

  2. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    "this was punk, this was the future!" I love this sentence..

  3. jeffr
    jeffr ·

    i agree with @superlighter
    greatttt article!

  4. hxloon
    hxloon ·

    Oh well, I gotta leave my addictive LC-Wide on the table and whip my Holga 120CFN out now for some squares love. Can I bring the Spinner 360 along?

  5. easilydistracted
    easilydistracted ·

    I really love the square format on my diana mini, great tips Angie!

  6. darlim
    darlim ·

    Nice tips. I love square formats. IT unconventional ( at least compared to the 35mm) and dead center shots really looks great. :)

  7. jamiew
    jamiew ·

    It was a fun and informative read. Thank you

  8. kimpy05
    kimpy05 ·

    I recently bought a holga and this is a nice tip to help me frame my photos

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