Why Are Photos Not Circular?

On Quora, somebody asked why photographs are not circular when lenses are.

I said I don’t know whether I have all the answers or any part of the answer but here are some thoughts.

Photos are not round because people do not consider them pleasing. We like rectangles or squares, just like we like paintings that are rectangular or square. It is impossible to say whether this is because we are hard-wired in our brains to like these shapes or whether it is just the accumulation of chance over the centuries. 

Maybe we can think about it this way: paintings are usually hung on walls. Walls are rectangular, so we want to use shapes that echo the shape of the space in which we hang them. Also with books, they are rectangular or square and the same idea applies – that rectangular or square photos fill the space better.

The same with windows, they are usually rectangular or square, so we are used to the idea of a frame being that shape, and that shape shapes our vision. 

Imagine a porthole in a cabin on a ship, and how your eyes want to explore what is in the corners beyond what one can see.

Do you have any input yourself?


  1. Tamara says:

    Interesting question, interesting answer. 🔭

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Daguerreotype, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851):


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