Landscape vs Portrait: How They’re Different & When to Use Each

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Landscape vs Portrait: How They’re Different & When to Use Each

Whether working with artwork, printed documents, or smartphone screens, you likely know the terms “landscape” and “portrait.” Both are popular page orientations or page layouts. But what’s the difference between landscape vs portrait? And when’s the most appropriate time to use each? Let’s break down these page layouts below, explaining how they differ and some of their applications.

Landscape vs Portrait: Side-by-Side Comparison

Landscape ModePortrait Mode
DimensionsLength < WidthLength > Width
Aspect Ratio16:94:3
Common UsesComputer ScreenLegal Document

Landscape vs Portrait: What’s the Difference?

As we mentioned above, landscape and portrait are both display orientations. They describe how the screen or the page appears. Landscape mode is horizontal, with a greater width than height. When a device or a page is oriented in landscape, the content displayed is wider. So, a person sees more from left to right than from top to bottom. On the other hand, portrait mode is vertical, which means it has a greater height than width. Devices or pages laid out in portrait display taller content. A person typically sees more from top to bottom rather than left to right.

Infographic: Landscape vs. Portrait orientation

Modern devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, and even cameras have options and settings that allow us to switch between landscape and portrait layouts. Some will switch automatically by simply turning the screen. Others require you to adjust the page layout manually. Other devices like a Kindle e-reader or hand-held gaming console — are locked in position with no option to change the layout.

e-ink device e-book reader
E-readers are traditionally locked in portrait mode. Other devices can be turned to switch between landscape and portrait modes.

©Joeri Mostmans/Shutterstock.com

When to Use Landscape

Let’s look at a few common uses for each layout to understand landscape vs portrait better. We’ll begin with the landscape.

Watching Movies

From your smartphone to your laptop to your television, landscape mode is the ideal page layout for watching movies. It doesn’t stop there, either. Television, YouTube, you name it: landscape mode is the perfect orientation for watching videos. Movies are typically shot in widescreen format, allowing the footage to fill the entire screen. Even films with aspect ratios of 4:3 or 1.33:1 are better suited for landscape page layouts.

Playing Video Games

Like movies and television shows, most video games are best suited for landscape page orientations. Video games are always best enjoyed in landscape mode, except for early arcade cabinets or the occasional portrait-oriented mobile game such as Candy Crush. Whether gaming on a console, a computer, a smartphone, or a hand-held gaming system, you typically require a screen that can display in landscape mode.

Making a Presentation

Landscape orientation is also helpful when making presentations at work or school. Oddly, every PowerPoint presentation you’ve ever made has been in landscape mode. An unspoken rule of making a presentation is that the page layout has to be in landscape, not portrait. It’s how projectors work, it’s how screens are oriented, and it’s how presentations are done.

Projector displays family photos on wall.
Projectors display images in landscape mode by default, whether at home or in the office.

©Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com

When to Use Portrait

Now that we have a good idea of when to use a landscape page layout let’s do the same for portrait mode. Below are some of its typical applications.

Using an E-Reader

E-readers are primarily oriented in portrait mode. They look like a single page of a book, so their page orientation is in a portrait layout. These devices lock their layouts in place, typically with no exceptions. Kindle Fire tablets have looser restrictions with their page layout. However, they are much closer to tablets than e-readers, anyway. If you have an e-reader, you will most likely use it in portrait and portrait mode alone.

Making a FaceTime Call

The word portrait describes a picture or painting of a person’s face and upper body. As such, portrait mode is the ideal way to make a FaceTime call from your smartphone. While FaceTime does allow you to use landscape mode, portrait mode is the default layout. The same applies when taking a selfie or even a picture of a person in front of you.

Scrolling Social Media

While Facebook and Twitter are oriented in landscape mode on a computer screen, they’re most often used in portrait mode. This is the default page orientation for popular social media sites viewed on smartphones or tablets. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat all use portrait mode. TikTok and Snapchat don’t even support a landscape mode; the layout will remain the same even if you try to turn your phone or tablet.

Landscape vs Portrait: 4 Must-Know Facts

  1. Landscape orientation is wider than tall, while portrait orientation is more tall than wide. These different orientations directly impact how the page displays its content. Landscape orientation is ideal for wide content, while portrait orientation is ideal for tall content.
  2. Smartphones, tablets, desktop computers, and televisions allow users to switch between landscape and portrait modes.
  3. The portrait layout suits printed documents such as letters, reports, or books. This is because we are naturally used to reading printed text oriented from top to bottom.
  4. Landscape layout is ideal for brochures, billboards, and other marketing materials featuring wide graphics and images.

Landscape vs Portrait: Pros and Cons

Pros of LandscapeCons of Landscape
Best for movies and televisionNot ideal for tall content
Best for typingDifficult to hold with one hand
Pros of PortraitCons of Portrait
Easy to hold in one handNot ideal for wide content
Best for readingMore difficult to type

Landscape vs Portrait: Which Is Best For You?

Landscape and portrait are two popular page orientations. Both layouts have their pros and cons based on the content displayed. Landscape page layouts are best for videos, presentations, and designing layouts. Portrait page layouts are suitable for portrait photography, document printing, and smartphone or tablet use. If you’re unsure, remember: your device is probably already oriented in its ideal page layout.

Landscape vs Portrait: How They’re Different & When to Use Each FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between landscape and portrait in photography?

In photography, landscape orientation refers to a horizontal orientation, while portrait orientation refers to a vertical orientation. The former is best for capturing wide images, while the latter is for capturing tall subjects. You often see landscape orientation used for pictures of city skylines or nature scenes, while you typically see portrait orientation for pictures of people.

Can you change the orientation of a Kindle?

While Kindles are oriented in portrait mode by default, some models do allow you to manually change the orientation to landscape by going into the settings and adjusting your user preferences. However, this is not possible with all Kindle models. It’s easiest to do on Kindle Fire tablets, which more closely resemble a smart phone or other tablet.

How do I stop my iPhone from changing orientations?

You can lock your iPhone in portrait mode by swiping down from the top menu and hitting the button that shows a padlock inside a circle. This will lock the phone in place and prevent it from adjusting to landscape mode when turned.

Can I adjust my laptop screen to portrait mode?

Some laptop screens allow you to adjust the orientation from landscape to portrait mode by going to your display settings and manually adjusting it from there. Typically, though, you’re going to be better off leaving the laptop screen in landscape mode.

How do I adjust the page orientation when printing?

When printing a document, most printers will allow you to change the orientation of the page from your connected device when you hit the “print” button. Additionally, you may also try changing the orientation in the software you’re using (such as Microsoft Word or other similar software).

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