A square format photograph can help draw viewers into the image, literally providing a "window" into the scene.

Long before the rise of Instagram, square format film cameras from Rolleiflex and Hasselblad were held in high esteem by photo enthusiasts. Indeed the square image is part of a long image-making tradition in visual arts. And one that every photographer - new or experienced - should explore.

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There are dedicated camera apps, for both Android and iOS, that let you shoot in a square format. Framing in a square opens up some creative possibilities but can obviously present a significant challenge if you're used to composing with your smartphone's 4:3 ratio rectangle. At the outset you're likely to feel that a square frame is just too tight and you don't have enough room to capture all the parts of the scene.

Shooting "square" does involve a different way of looking at the photo opportunities around you. I'd recommend you start with images you've already captured and try cropping them to a 1:1 format. This is a great way to learn to identify compositions and subject matter that work well as square images.

Apps like 6x6 for iOS (above left) and ProCapture for Android can turn your phone into a square format camera. You can also convert existing 4:3 images by using the crop tool in the iOS Photos app (above right) or Android's Gallery app.

Pretty soon, you'll find that square compositions can work well for a wide variety of shooting styles. Whether you're into portraiture, street photography, architecture or are simply drawn to abstract colors and textures, the square format can provide the impetus for a more creative approach to your work. Below, I've given just a few examples of how the format can be used to interesting effect.

The square format, with its tighter crop, can lead to more creative portrait compositions.
You can create interesting landscape images by shifting the horizon away from the midpoint of the square frame.
Combine the square format with a black and white treatment to create more abstract compositions, particularly with architecture.
Scenes with strong elements of symmetry make great candidates for square compositions.

But don't take my word for it, revisit some of your existing images and see how they look as you crop them in a 1:1 format. See what types of images look better to you after cropping. Then go out and start shooting some "squares." It's a great way to expand your creative options.