Why I Crop My Photos Square

I’ve been cropping my photos square since way before Instagram and Twitter popularized the shape – but my reason’s not much more credible than anyone else’s. 🙂 Back in the 90’s when I was spending lots of time in darkrooms developing my first arty photos my friends and I lusted for “medium-format” cameras. 35mm film was great for holiday photos, but for magazine covers and billboards you needed a much larger negative to work with – so medium-format cameras had wide (usually 6cm across!) rolls of film that were usually shot as 6x6cm square photos.

Oh how I coveted arts school students and their huge square negatives with their artful square composition. 🙂 By the time I got there though the film industry collapse was well underway. With digital camera technology rapidly consuming pro photography the medium format became a kind of niche tool for artists and holdouts. You can still get them, but between the fuss of the darkroom and the lack of film processing services you’ve got to be really dedicated to celluloid to make it work. Medium and large-format digital cameras are pretty amazing but the price tag is astronomical and the technology actually trickles down from the DSLR market – unless you have a very high-end application you’re probably better off sticking to your 35mm equipment.

Despite the glamour, medium format had it’s downsides – because the negative was huge you had to find some way to expose more surface area with the same amount of light – either you had to shoot still subjects, invest in very large and expensive lenses, or you had to have very bright studio lighting to compensate for the extra stops you lose trying to expose all of that surface area. Moving up to a high-end Medium Format could be very expensive and usually marked either a professional portrait photographer or a very wealthy hobbyist.

All of this to say that I often crop my photos square because I want to pretend I’m a hoity-toity medium format photographer like the people I admired and respected in the 90s. 🙂 It’s a little sad.