Thursday, June 26, 2008


Ever wonder about rules in photography - rules of composition, focusing, choice of subject, lighting and whatnot.

Truth is, rules are a substitute for thinking. If you don't want to think about how best to frame your subject, you apply the rules of thirds. While a few rules are based on physics and properties of the real world (like hyperfocal distances, most are simply generalizations which work fairly well, most of the time, for most subjects. Is that really any way to treat an image that is important to you?

At the very most rules should be fall-back positions - failing a better idea, then I'll follow the rules but if you think about it, having no clue what to do with the composition doesn't say much for your involvement with the subject matter.

It's entirely different to not be able to decide which of two options is better - framing A or framing B - they may be equally attractive, all be it in different ways and difficulty deciding says more about your personality than either your intelligence or involvement.

Therefore, rules are not made to be broken, they are there to be replaced by careful consideration and should only be used when they explain the physical world or don't have any impact on the creation of the image.


yz said...

"rules are not made to be broken, they are there to be replaced by careful consideration"

I like this idea very much! I'll remember that.

Howard said...

Applause. Applause. Applause.

Shaun said...

The process of how to frame a shot is an interesting subject to try to define, and seems appropriate when discussing general rules vs. interacting with your subject. I find that when I am in the field shooting there is a dialogue going on between myself and the image in the viewfinder, I find myself almost talking out loud to the camera when I am composing a shot, going something like this: " so if I drop down a bit I will align with you there, but that will block the relationship I had set up on the right side, I could crop tighter, and that would maintain the diagonal I was looking at, and I would have some balance side to side, and that dark area may balance with this light area over here better" etc. It is a conversation with my subject, which seems like an important part of my shooting process.

George Barr said...


what do you mean ALMOST, clearly you haven't been following me around, muttering to myself.

I agree absolutely - that internal (or not so internal) dialogue is vital to making good images.


Hong CN said...

I assume Shaun's internal dialogue is some kinds of "feeling" that make you decide to press the shutter. Correct me if I'm wrong. :-)

George Barr said...

I can only speak for myself. My internal dialogue might go along the lines of:

hmmn, interesting, might be able to do something with that, right, subject interesting but don't see an image, what if I move to the right, ah, now i'm getting something, but boy that left lower corner doesn't work, ok, a bit to the left, a little lower, yes, yes, this is starting to come together. OK, The centre is ok, the left lower is ok, on the right, sure would like to include that second rock, but no, it comes with a bush, ok forget it - too bad, now, can I strengthen the top and bottom. maybe a bit further back and a little longer lens (ah, the joys of zooms), ok, now we're cooking. Maybe I should capture what I have just in case the wind comes up or I lose the light. OK, have my base shot in the bag, now lets see if I can improve on it, and perhaps moving a bit right on the histogram might not hurt too - did I get the depth of field right? Does it matter if that grass is swaying, should I actually let it sway more, I wonder.

Five more pictures of the same thing from various angles and I'm not sure which will be the keeper, if any - that awaits being home in front of the computer.

that's the kind of dialogue I have, and likely Shaun too. (did you see Shaun's portfolio in Lenswork - some Very nice images.