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Should you use FaceTime in portrait or landscape?

FaceTime on iPad
FaceTime on iPad (Image credit: iMore)

If you're someone who uses FaceTime frequently, someone who's obsessed with seeing their Memoji, or someone who occasionally uses the feature to connect with friends and family to check-in, knowing the best etiquette for angling your FaceTime conversation is critical. While some people may argue that all video on an iPhone or iPad should be shot in a landscape/horizontal way so users can get the best use of the space & width of their screen, FaceTiming actually works a wee bit better if you're in portrait orientation.

Why?

With the way FaceTime is set up on your screen, whether on your iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, you should be able to see that not only is the window you're having your conversation in portrait orientation, but the entire FaceTime window is in portrait too.

This makes sense because when you're FaceTiming on your iPhone, the natural way you hold your phone is in portrait orientation; very rarely are people constantly texting, Instagramming, and interacting on their iPhone or iPad in landscape. Using FaceTime in portrait mode just feels more natural to most people.

But my DSLR/point-and-shoot camera is landscape/horizontal, so wouldn't that actually feel more natural?

If you were FaceTiming with your DSLR, then yes! But FaceTiming on your iPhone is a different story.

Because we hold our iPhone's upright, it just makes sense to FaceTime at this angle. After all, FaceTiming should look casual and simple with just the quick tap of a button from writing a text, not like you're fumbling to angle up & match the perfect shot like you would while shooting a photo.

Can I FaceTime in landscape mode?

Of course! You can do whatever you want! But it's important to note that the way your screen is set up, and the way you see your FaceTiming partner/they see you, is all set to function best and fit appropriately in portrait mode.

What's so bad about FaceTiming in landscape mode?

While landscape mode can be great for shooting video, selfies, photos, and so, so much more, FaceTime falls a bit flat when it comes to shooting landscape.

Why? When you're FaceTiming with someone and switch to landscape mode, they don't actually see that switch: you still appear to them on their screen in a portrait-style vertical box in the corner of their screen.

When you tilt your iPhone, the box doesn't tilt with you; it stays in portrait mode. Meanwhile, suddenly, your image is closer to the camera; it's a bit more awkward to FaceTime with someone, and getting the perfect angle becomes a bit of a chore.

How do you FaceTime?

Are you a big fan of having your FaceTime conversations in portrait mode? Or are you a true-to-heart landscape mode FaceTime-ilist?

Let us know how you've mastered FaceTime in the comments below!

Updated May 2020: Up-to-date for current versions of macOS and iOS.

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

5 Comments
  • I think Portrait just works better for Facetime on the iPhone. It's now you normally hold the phone and also you really want to focus on the person in general not what's around them. If you want to show what's around you, you switch to the other camera. If you're taking pictures, and especially video, turn your iPhone 90 degree's so that you're Horizontal as you want to get a normal picture frame. Not much more drives me nuts then watching a video on youtube with big fat left and right boarders with this narrow slit of a window of video to see what's going on. Blowing it up is not much better. It just looks so bad. Half the time I just say screw it and leave. It's just not watchable.
  • I don't use it at all on the iPhone, because it the FFC has awful distortion that make you look like you are 20 lbs heavier due to how fat it makes you face look. I'm not that self-conscious about my weight. It just looks incredibly bad, and it's so in-your-face that you cannot unsee it, for the entire call. It's also limited to 720, which looks terrible on 1080p screens. I prefer to FaceTime or Skype from my PC, where I can use my better WebCam, instead. I've been preferring Skype, these days, because it has the Highlights feature which allows me to use it as a Quasi-Social Network (without Joining Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.) and has been fairly easy to get people to install and use with me. It also does 1080p Video Chat from my PC, using my Logitech Webcam (which has Hardware Encoding for H.264, so it's less work for my PC, as well - Macs only get 720p with Skype, so no point in using it over Windows 10). I don't think I've used a FFC on a phone in years, literally. I'd rather get a stranger to take a picture for me in a mall (Americans are so courteous!) than use the "selfie" camera on a smartphone. All of them had bad lens distortion, IMHO, and Photo Editing software almost never have the proper lens profiles to correct it [well enough] without a ton of manual work thrown in It also looks absolutely awful on Mac screens when you're FaceTiming with someone on an iPhone. Massive Black Bars on each side of the picture. Typically, if someone FaceTimes me, I will reject it and return the call immediately on Skype. I'm also guilty of asking people to turn their phone landscape when video calling with them. The FoV is disturbingly narrow in portrait.
  • "Typically, if someone FaceTimes me, I will reject it and return the call immediately on Skype." Providing they use Skype or have a Skype account, or maybe they don't want to use Skype and want to use FaceTime because that's what they're used to? Let's talk about Skype actually, and how it used to be decent software and has gone downhill lately, especially with the "redesign". If you've heard about Electron, then you partly know what I'm talking about. If not, then Electron is a framework which you can use to build apps from. The problem with Electron, is that it's essentially a web browser, you build your application as if you're building a website, with HTML and CSS, this means that any application using Electron suffers a big performance loss and high memory usage, because it's not a native app. I don't know at what point it happened, but Skype now uses Electron, see here: https://electronjs.org/apps/skype This essentially means that FaceTime, as bad as you make it sound, uses a fraction of the memory and performance that Skype requires. Not only that, but Electron has the potential of causing other problems, such as security issues that may occur in the Chromium engine (which Electron uses) or security issues with JavaScript libraries that Electron applications use. Honestly I would not want to use Skype unless I can find a version before it started being built on Electron, back when it was clean and simple software. FaceTime works perfectly fine for me, it sucks that it doesn't support 1080p at the moment, but it will eventually, I have no other quarrels with it
  • "Let's settle this debate right now!" LOL. Right. Lets tackle the Gif vs Jif argument as well.
  • I've never understood why anyone would call it Jif (even if the creator said it should be). G stands for Graphics, not Jraphics, and the closest word to Gif is Gift, so with the nature of languages that's the way you'd logically expect it to be pronounced, although the English language is a nightmare