Breaking the Rules of Photography

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Why are there so many rules in photography? Here at Beyond Megapixels, we’ve published eleven Photography 101 articles to date and that’s barely even scratching the surface. Does this mean that you have to strictly follow these to be able to capture a good photograph?

The rules of photography are merely rules of thumb. They are there to guide and not dictate. But they exist for a reason. They work. These are the results of decades of experience by thousands of photographers that say what will work given a particular situation. It doesn’t mean that we can’t deviate from them. Photography still remains a form of self-expression which is only bound by the photographer’s creativity.

Having said all that, they can be broken. BUT before you go and start breaking the rules, you need to have a firm grasp of the ones you are planning to break to begin with. You need to know why you are breaking them and how what you’re doing contributes to the image. Yes, there are rules to breaking the rules. If you’re just arbitrarily breaking every rule you come across just for the sake of being different or “artsy”, well, chances are one look at your photo and people will know you had no idea what you were doing in the first place.

It is a rule of thumb in portrait photography that your subject’s face has to be clearly seen. By definition, a portrait is an artistic representation of a person where the face and expression is central to the photo. This is due to the fact that you can learn a lot from a person from their face. What if you don’t want to show your subject’s face? The photo below is an excellent example. We learn something from the person by their clothing and posture instead of their expression. And a good photograph is as much about what isn’t shown as what is shown.


CC Photo by billaday

Another thing is that if you are going to break them, then by George, break them completely. You can’t be timid or shy about this. If you are then it’s highly likely your actions will look more accidental than deliberate.

In some old photography books, there is a technique called the Dutch Tilt. This is when you deliberately tilt your camera at an angle to create a sense of tension and make the scene more dynamic. This technique breaks the rule of keeping your camera level to the horizon. Why does this work? It’s because the lines that are supposed to be level or horizontal will now become diagonal and like we discussed before, diagonal lines evoke a sense of movement.

The photo below was captured with a shutter speed of 1/500. This was done to eliminate any motion blur and get the car in sharp focus. The down side of freezing motion to get a sharp image is that, well, all sense of motion is lost. The photographer decided to tilt that camera to still give the viewer a sense of motion and speed. You can also see that the tilt was very deliberate and it adds a great deal to the photo.



CC Photo by ph-stop

Related Reading:
5 Ways to Hold Your Viewer’s Attention
How to Use Lines to Enhance Your Photo
Some Lighting Tips for Beginners

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