When we first start out in photography we all find that adhering to a few basic rules has a dramatic effect on the quality of our images.
But adhering to those rules religiously can stifle creativity.
In this article I take a look at three common ‘rules’ and share occasions when it helps to break them.
All landscape photographs need a foreground. Something to create depth in order to give the image a 3 dimensional feel.
It is certainly true that many images benefit from having a strong foreground but in my opinion there are just as many where it is unnecessary. I often find a strong foreground to be districting drawing attention away from the main subject.
One of my pet hates in landscape photography is the use of a ‘lazy’ foreground. When the photographer includes something like a rock simply because it is there and is convenient. This is something that I have been, and continue to be, guilty of. I never claimed to be perfect!
Many of the ‘rocks’ that I see in landscape photographs are not interesting, more like foreground boredom!
Generally, when I remember, my approach to photography is to try to eliminate as many distractions as possible from my images. I try to only include foregrounds on occasions when they compliment the main subject.
The Rule of Thirds
I love the Rule of Thirds. I use it all of the time to help create more harmonious and balanced compositions.
In most of my images I am looking to create a feeling of serenity and calmness. Look through my photographs and you will find that most of the time I place my horizon on either the top or bottom third and my main subject on one of the four intersections.
However, there are couple of occasions when we want to break the rule of thirds.
The first is when shooting reflections. Instead of placing the horizon on either the upper or lower third here it is often far more visually pleasing to run it right through the middle of the image.
The second occasion when it is useful to break the rule thirds is when you want to grab the viewers attention. Placing the subject in the middle of the frame creates discord and if used effectively can draw the viewers attention to precisely where you want it.
This can be a very hand technique if there is little seperation between the subject and the background particularly when combined with a vignette.
Protect the Highlights
Whilst not necessarily a rule as such one of the first things that we learn as photographers is not to clip the highlights.
Generally, for 99.9% of my shots I try my hardest to protect my highlights particularly in the sky. This has led to me investing a king’s ransom in ND graduated filters! But in some circumstances ND grads can lead to an unnatural, muddy looking sky which isn’t to my taste.
Occasionally, in order to get the mood and feeling that I am after, I like to blow out the sky completely. Sometimes, particularly when shooting into the sun, it is impossible to avoid clipping the highlights. At such times I like to exaggerate the effect rather than fight against it.
There are many rules that can help us to create better composed images. As our experience increases these rules can become ingrained in us so that we follow them almost subconsciously.
But knowing when to break the rules can help us to create more visually stimulating images and who doesn’t want a bit of that!