Carsten Witte Shows the Beauty of Square Format for Portraiture

All images by Carsten Witte. Used with Creative Commons permission.

If you’re into portrait photography, one of the things you can try to improve your composition is the square format. This framing method is actually very powerful for all kinds of photography, but it works exceptionally well for portraits. Today’s portraiture inspiration from Hamburg-based Carsten Witte will certainly show you how.

Long before Instagram made it the go-to format for social media posts, square format has actually been the format of choice for medium format photographers. Many of the iconic glamour and fashion photographers were the first to demonstrate why it makes stunning portraits. It creates a sense of balance, symmetry, simplicity, and control of space and details — all of which are present in Carsten’s impressive collection of square portraits.

Aptly titled Square Faces, the beautiful set shows how this framing works for a variety of styles, including close-ups, half-body, high key, double exposures, low light, and low key. When framed this way, there’s a just enough space for the viewers’ eyes to move around the photo without wandering too much from side to side. Symmetry and balance are effortless in the composition, allowing photographers like Carsten to play around with interesting angles, selective focus, and other creative elements.

There’s another important lesson to be learned from Carsten’s Square Faces. Portrait and fine art photographers who have a preference or affinity for black and white also often shoot with the square format. As a distinct style on its own, black and white photography takes away the distraction of color and allows the mastery of composition stand out in the frame. Monochrome imagery relies on the combination of visual elements such as lines, shapes, shadows, and curves. All of these, as previously mentioned, are further emphasized in square format.

Do check out Carsten Witte’s Behance portfolio and website to see the entire Square Faces set, as well as his other outstanding portrait projects.