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News & Insight

It’s Time To Embrace Vertical Videos

By Marlon Richardson on September 18th 2016

Thanks to television and cinema we’ve grown accustomed to watching video horizontally for over 60 years. But, regardless of that history, since the very first smartphone, people have shot and continued shooting videos while holding their phones vertically.

Although many professional videographers and photographers lament and police the scourge of the vertical video, mobile video is an ever growing portion of video viewing and content consumption, and because we are using devices with tall screens that are best held in a vertical orientation, vertical videos look more natural and work better than horizontal videos.



For the most part, we are obsessed with smartphones. It doesn’t matter where you look whether you’re sitting on a plane or train, or shopping, everyone, and I mean everyone is browsing their phones, and they are doing so vertically. Even when watching video, [studies] are showing that people just don’t rotate their phones.

Advertisers who were the first to test-drive vertical videos on Snapchat saw up to nine* times more engagement compared to horizontal videos. Since this revelation a year ago, Snapchat has gone all-in delivering verticality in all its content, which includes messaging, live stories, and channels. If you read between the lines there you’d have picked up that what that means is Snapchat’s billion dollar valuation and future earnings is critically connected to vertical video ads or vertical video in general.


Instagram, with 500 million users and counting, has, for the most part, made updates catering to advertising since being acquired by Facebook. On August 27th 2015, Instagram rolled out full support for landscape and portrait formats. This, along with its switch to an algorithm-fuelled timeline were no doubt done spur growth and engagement rates that have previously shown signs of slowing down. Since then, Instagram has maintained the highest per-follower engagement rate of any social platform. The ability for Instagram’s videos and Stories to play while held in vertical is integral in all of this.


Think Vertically

Unlike many of us, especially in the visual medium community, most smartphone users (read: creators and consumers) aren’t overthinking it. They’ve long felt vertical videos are more natural and data suggests that it drives results. If you’ve recently caught it, the new Underworld movie has released vertical video versions of its trailer, and the traction is has compared to the rest is astounding.

What this all adds up to is, for your business, dismissing vertical video as a passing phenomenon would be a mistake. With 30% of our collective screen time spent with devices that are best held vertically, the future of video, it turns out, just might be vertical.



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Marlon is a South Florida-based wedding and portrait photographer, writer, and interactive designer. Involved in photography since the 90’s, his background began with repairing film cameras from a master Vietnam veteran, followed by years of assisting professional photographers then before starting his own business in 2006. Marlon at his heart is a tinkerer that has love for and adept in every medium of photography.

When not working Marlon is all about spending time with his wife, Naomi and two boys, Taze and Brassaï.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ralph Hightower

    My wife and I were vacationing in Alabama during the recent Labor Day weekend and on the trip from Huntsville to Gadsden along the Tennessee River and Gunterville Lake, I noticed Paula was shooting along the river and lake in portrait mode. I suggested that the photos would probably be better in landscape mode. She said “You’re probably right” and switched.
    The primary purpose of that trip was to buy a puppy. Yesterday, the 10 week old puppy was wrestling with one of our 7 year old dogs; Paula shot the video in landscape.

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  2. Drew Pluta

    The problem here is giving up on what we know for what we see happening right now. If we could kill vertical video we know it would be the right thing. VV is incorrect for so many reasons that we should not have to review. This decision has been made through 100 years of technology and many jump points along the way to switch. We haven’t, yet, and we shouldn’t now. Not without a better reason than we’ve so far been given. You do know you can just rotate the fucking phone to shoot proper video, DON’T YOU?!

    Just like we don’t constantly review shooting jpg over RAW anymore, RIGHT?! We know better, right?! That argument is put to rest for good reason. Just like cassette tapes and mp3’s are not better audio. We all know that right?!? This is the problem. We’ve let dummies have their way. Mp3’s are an abomination for the same reasons jpg’s are but we’ve allowed the industry to go the wrong way and now we’re stuck with the wrong format. We should be listening to uncompressed 24 Bit, Learn your lessons. “The low road” is the low road for a reason.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      V V, only works best on devices optimized for that format. It’s here to stay on those type devices.

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  3. Ben Perrin

    Sorry, I’m going to call bs on the more natural part. Many years ago tv’s were more likely to be a square shape. Now a 16:9 type ratio is probably the most common. The reason? Our eyes are apart in a horizontal manner, not vertical. I’m sure the only reason anybody is engaging more with vertical videos is the relative novelty of the format. That’ll wear out soon. Are people really so lazy that they can’t be bothered to tilt the screen 90 degrees? Our generation sucks.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      don’t kill the messenger, these revelations are backed by hard data. People have been shooting horizontally since smart phones showed up. Why because smart phones are optimized for vertical viewing. Photos, consuming content, video chat, etc… is all done vertically. The only thing we make ourselves do horizontally is watch video, sometimes.

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    • Ben Perrin

      But why is it a big deal to watch video horizontally? Your message still doesn’t take away that our eyes are horizontally aligned. This “hard data” seems to disagree with data from the movie industry that is much much older and well tested. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if this so called “hard data” isn’t just a fad. Then again I’m one of those people who doesn’t like using a smart phone for consuming data. Especially as a photographer, why would I consume data on such a limited device with a small screen I can view it on a 24″ screen at work or a 27 or 46 inch screen at home?

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  4. Mokhtar C

    In my opinion i think it all depends on what type of user you are.

    I see plenty of people capturing their kids memories on snapchat vertically, Sadly, they are using their phone to capture important memories and also if they plan to put all these videos on a media player to play it on TV they are going to look bad.
    So my advice for people capturing memories, keep shooting horizontally.

    But if you are a vlogger or what whatever new things comes next then i don’t think it matters how you shoot.

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  5. Dave Smith

    Vertical videos are so STUPID. Just plain hard to watch and leaves out so much. Vertical Video Syndrome I post this all the time to help those affected by VVS.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Dave, I understand the annoyance, and I too am not a fan really, but if we can put personal preference and emotion aside and look at this as a function of business, these numbers are hard to argue with. If you’re a business and hope to thrive today, you will know your audience is on a device in portrait orientation 95% of the time, and not optimizing for that observed behavior may hurt.

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