Portrait vs Poor Trait

Is it a poor trait of the LEGO minifigures?

It was noted, as we were deciding which images to include in the next BricksCulture magazine article last Sunday/Monday (a bloody hard task I might add due to the sheer awesomeness of all the submissions), that the majority of the photos submitted were landscape format.

This got me thinking.

Do LEGO minifigures work as subject matter when photographing in portrait mode? Why is landscape the “go to” format for minifigures photography?


Righteous psychoticness,
Painting a portrait of pain
Damaged – Passive Backseat Demon Engines

I find it interesting that after years of posting on Instagram, and being forced to post in square format, when I was given the freedom to post in landscape or portrait, I gravitated to landscape. Why did I do that? I truly don’t know? Maybe there’s something I find more aesthetically pleasing about a rectangle on its side than on its end. Maybe it’s living in the country and that I find the skyscrapers of the city somewhat daunting. Maybe I’m worried that portrait format is more likely to topple over than the more sturdy landscape one in an earthquake. Maybe it’s due to television and movies, they’re landscape. But hang on, most books are read in portrait format? Oh, now I’ve confused myself! I really don’t know!

Shelly has written here that she prefers to shoot her images in portrait mode, and accredits that preference to her past life as a non-plastic people photographer. That makes sense. But why do most LEGO photographers with no “formal” photography background to influence their preference lean towards landscape?

Nothing more
Nothing less
An icon on the wall
Decoration and duress
Bad Religion – Portrait of Authority

Dead Wienicorn

This is possibly the post with the most unanswered questions I’ve posted here. But if I don’t have the answers, I’m hardly going to make them up.

If someone has the answer, or even an opinion, I’d love to know what it is.

If you need me, I’ll be lying down, in landscape mode, confused.


  1. Very good question Brett! I can’t speak for everyone but I can explain why I tend to use landscape mode more often than portrait. LEGO sets are often wide and not very tall so taking a photo in portrait format means I need to find something to fill the bottom and top of the frame, especially if I don’t want the edge of the set to show in the photo. An exception to this is the Brick Bank, with it’s gorgeous stained glass windows. That set is great for portrait format 🙂

    • Thanks. I think I’ve tended to shoot landscape because I’ve thought I could always crop a landscape original into portrait, but I don’t think it works the other way around? However, since questioning this, I’ve found myself shooting more portrait?!

  2. Portrait, portrait, portrait!! Why? Because I’m taking photos of mini figures, not sets. The dimensions of mini figures are tall, so using the tall orientation makes perfect sense. Plus if you leave lots of empty areas you can easily crop to a square image. My biggest problem is finding horizontal images to use as headers for my posts. I almost always have to radically crop a vertical for that image. Since I know I have to fill that spot I’ve been turn my camera more, just to capture images for that use. Its a shame that the end use determines the image.

    Great topic Brett!

  3. I think portrait is perfect for portraits! Makes sense. Whenever I take a nice upclose portrait of my minifigures, I tend to do it in portrait. I use landscape for everything else because it seems to me to be better for telling a story and can easily include more than one minifig. Great write up!

  4. reiterlied

    At the time Shelly posted her article on portrait vs. landscape I was often trying to force myself to experience with portrait mode. More than a year later I’ve almost abandoned. Once in a while I take a portrait photo but most of my pictures are not only landscapes, but also cropped to an aspect ratio of 16:9 (or 16:10 when I did the mistake of not leaving enough space in the frame). I’ve come to realize that, for me, one of the most important source of inspiration for photography is cinema. So with landscape orientation and 16:9 aspect ratio it’s a way to acknowledge that influence.

    Also 16:9 (or 16:10) makes it convenient to use photos as computer screen wallpapers 🙂

  5. Leila @brickandmordor

    I immediately thought of Shelly’s preferred portrait orientation! Definitely inspired to try this framing over landscape. Your vertical Deadpool-icorn shot does work better!

    I honestly think my use of landscape orientation might be plain old laziness of not wanting to crank my neck that certain way to look through the DSLR viewfinder when tipped on its side! My newer little camera with the tilt screen makes it much easier to compose shots, so I guess I don’t have an excuse to not try out more portrait shots!

  6. I shoot in landscape because my eyes are in landscape mode (side-by-side) O.O So is my computer monitor, and my camera (but not my phone!). I joke, but who knows… maybe there’s something to that? Or maybe I’ve just been brainwashed. Honestly, I just find that landscape is easier FOR ME to create compelling compositions. Once in a while the rare photo demands to be taken in or cropped to portrait, but that’s rare.

  7. I think it all comes down to the fact that we are genetically hardwired to scan the horizon for danger.

    Want more? OK. If you see someone running towards you screaming, your first act is to look left and right because the odds are better that whatever the peril is, it’s going to be coming from behind them. Even if it is some death from above (volcano, building, plane, rock) we start left and right.

    Portraits work because they forces your attention to the center of the frame. There’s no left, no right, just the Mona Lisa and by God and Leonardo, you will notice her. There’s depth, of course, but the work is more about capturing the subject (and raising questions about her) than telling a story.

    Me, I like shooting stories as much as anything, so I opt for horizontal as much as possible. That’s not to say you can’t do a vertical story (https://www.flickr.com/photos/csb13/31310622995/in/dateposted/), but there you’re trying to use the whole frame and so help me, sometimes you just run out of patience with armature wire and poster putty. 🙂

  8. thereeljames

    I find that landscape is typically my preferred choice, or at least the one I gravitate toward most organically. I tend to save portrait for close-up shots, shots with taller structures, or, as Chris suggested, to draw attention to the center of the frame. When I shoot in portrait though it feels a bit unnatural to me, like writing with my left hand.

    I also think part of the reason landscape is so popular is because of what Chris alluded to: our devices are more landscape-friendly. Since the way my photos are viewed is primarily on social media, I keep HOW the photo will show up on Facebook, Instagram, Flickr or G+ in consideration when initially grabbing the shot. If it will be weirdly cropped, pushed to the side with a bunch of white empty space (which Facebook tends to do), or force my viewer to scroll in order to get the whole shot, I’m less inclined to take the picture that way.

    • I agree. Although it kind of annoys me that how an image might be viewed on a social media platform dictates the image I capture. Since hanging photos on a gallery wall, I tend to forget where the image will end up being viewed, and focus more on the individual shot/concept/story. I think if I give too much consideration to where a photo might be seen, the photo loses out.

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