Rules are important to help us maintain structure and ensure we achieve a solid grasp on the fundamentals of photography, but some may argue rules are meant to be broken. Who am I to disagree? In fact, once you’ve taken the time to learn all the rules, I encourage photographers to discover creative ways to completely disregard them–at least, every once in a while! Let’s take a look at a few of my favorite photography rules that you can break and still make great photos.
1. The Rule of Thirds
This common rule is one of the first things we taught when we’re learning photography. And that’s no surprise–it’s a great way to improve composition, plus it’s a pretty easy rule to master. All you have to do is stick a point of interest, such as your subject, at one of the intersections created were you to place a 3 x 3 grid onto the composition. And, while this often yields compelling results, it’s still just a theory. Meaning it’s not mandatory.
Photo: Framed In by Georgie Pauwels.
To effectively break the rule of thirds, look for things such as symmetry or natural framing of your subject–these things to help balance out photos and diminish the need for the rule of thirds all together.
2. Blurry Photos
Obviously, getting the focus on point is a crucial part to taking a decent photo and because so, it’s something we’re always checking, adjusting, and getting it just how we want it. More often than not, that means making sure the focus is sharp and there’s a lot to be said for a tack sharp photo. When your subject is accidentally out of focus, it doesn’t usually make for a good photo. But, what about when you intentionally put a little blur into your composition?
Photo: Motion Blur Frozen by Mariano Kamp.
Using techniques like panning or slow shutter speeds when shooting action shots can actually create some really interesting images, such as the image of the cyclist we see above. By incorporating a little motion blur into the photo, the photographer has created a way to photograph movement, which makes the shot more captivating and unique. So, next time you’re photographing a big race or fast moving subject, practice tracking the subject as you snap a picture to see what kind of cool effects you can capture.
3. Shooting Into Light
Pointing your camera towards a light source is considered a big no-no by a lot of photographers, but when done correctly, it can yield incredible results. Just take a peak at this awesome portrait (below).
Photo by Lyle Vincent.
To break this rule, try to set up your composition so the subject is front of the light source–either partially or completely blocking it. This creates a silhouette and sometimes a starburst or lens flare effect, both which can add interest to a photograph when not used in excess.
4. Negative Space
Negative space is one of my favorite things to pull off in a photo. Typically, we try to make sure our photos have balance–an object or secondary subject that doesn’t detract from the main subject, but instead complements it while also making sure there’s not too much empty–or negative–space in the photo, which can sometimes seem like a waste of good space.
Photo: Atlanta Cat by pml2008.
However, negative space can also be useful to help draw the viewers eye to the subject and deliver dramatic effect. Using high contrast lighting like we see in this portrait of a cat is one way you can use negative space in your composition. Though, negative space doesn’t necessarily mean blackness. A bright sky or blurry background can also serve as negative space quite well.
5. Unorthodox Camera Angles
We have the tendency to see things on an eye-level basis. That only makes sense, since we typically keep our gaze straight ahead or to the side rather than down or above. Mixing up your camera angles every now and then is good thing though. When you’re out looking for a photo, or even in the studio, I like to encourage students to look in all directions.
Photo: Nautilus Looking Up by John Fowler.
We like to call this “working the scene” and it’s more than just looking up and down. It’s okay to sometimes kneel down or stand on top of a tall object to gain a different perspective that would offer a view of something that is usually unseen. When you can offer someone a unique view of something they’re already familiar with, it draws them into the photo and gets them interested in what they are looking at–which is often the goal of photography!
So, don’t be afraid to go off road occasionally and try some techniques out you’ve been told wouldn’t work. Chances are not all of the shots will work, but you’ll be learning something in the meantime and with practice you’ll be just as comfortable breaking the rules as you are sticking to them.