Humans naturally see more width than they do height. Video content is almost wide screen rather than square (Vine is a big exception), but it seems images are most often square now (it didn't always used to be this way). I'm wondering if there's a biological reason for this. For example, maybe square is actually more efficiently and pleasantly processed, so it works for images. However, since there's movement in videos, wider can allow more content which can be useful, but this might also take more effort for people due to scanning their eyes side to side to see what's going on.

I know the growth in square images came along with the growth of mobile (and Instagram), but I don't find that a compelling case to say that square is better for mobile. Instagram could display pics on my fine at 320 x 240 instead of 320 x 320. I suppose that extra height could be precious if making comics, for example, in which you might have a lot of text to fit in a small space, but even then I think people could just learn to be more concise.

So to recap, are there any biologically compelling reason to stick to primarily posting square images (aside from being required to by places like Instagram) or is there a case for posting wide screen images?

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    No clue where you get the "growth of square images". Cameras in general, have never had a square format, even before digital photos. Square format cameras existed, but it's not like there was ever a market sweep of that format. I think you are perhaps only looking at a few websites that have determined they want square images. This is kind of like asking "Why are red cars so popular now?" trends are trends and some people just prefer red. And video content was square for TV just a short time ago.. so..... – Scott Apr 30 '15 at 1:37
  • Do you have evidence of images usually being square? Most I think of are not square – Zach Saucier Apr 30 '15 at 1:38
  • @MarkMussler I don't. It's just what I've noticed from browsing sites the last couple years compared to years before. It could very well be the case that I happen to visit sites that have come to prefer square images more than other sites. – jamiestroud69 Apr 30 '15 at 1:48
  • Most popular digital photo apps are square (and use analog filters to harken back to the days of pre-35mm square formats as well as later formats such as polaroid) – DA01 Apr 30 '15 at 5:11
  • Also, this isn't a graphic design question. This should be asked over on photography. – DA01 Apr 30 '15 at 5:11

I'm wondering if there's a biological reason for this.

Nope. Film (photographic as well as motion picture) have come in all sorts of aspect ratios. 1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, etc.

Many of these aspect ratios formed prior to defacto standards. With photos, the 35mm format became a defacto standard (3:2) and there's been a few different major defacto film standard (a common one today being HDTV at 16:9)

These reasons for all the formats vary wildly and are often purely market driven more than anything else. Polaroid went square. Maybe to be different. In the 70's 70mm movies became a popular standard (2.2:1) as a marketing element (get people to the theaters).

As for why you see a lot of square images in the digital world today, it's because of Hipstamatic and Instagram--arguably two of the most popular photo apps in existence. Why did they decide to go square? Probably a lot of reasons, but many of them likely arbitrary. One likely reason is to embrace the nostalgia of analog cameras--of which many of the iconic ones were square format (pre 35mm b/w cameras, Polaroid instant film, etc.)

I don't find that a compelling case to say that square is better for mobile

There is no 'better'. Arguing what aspect ratio is better is like arguing which color is better. It's just a design decision.

  • Square will guarantee room next to image on all nonsquare displays if you fit the image on screen ;) – joojaa Apr 30 '15 at 6:39

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