Break the Rules and Grow with your Photography! Rules in photography are there for a reason. They developed over time, they give some sort of a secure path to follow and if you follow them, your pictures improve and you usually are not bad off. In this article i will give a hands-on example to better understand why you will grow with your photography when you break the rules.
Nothing against following the rules. But, as with most creative topics, sometimes it’s necessary to break them to understand why they work. If you choose to only follow given rules and paths you might never understand why they are there and what exactly they do.
To truly understand why they are so good, you have to look at them from different perspectives. That means follow them and try to understand them. Now get yourself in the opposite perspective and go reverse. Did you try that already with a specific rule in photography? What happened to your picture? What happend to your photography after?
Break the Rules!
My example shot: The dark center
In late Autumn 2017 i went on a recreational trip to western Ireland. It’s not the perfect time to capture those stunning green landscapes and ever changing weather patterns Ireland is famous for. It’s more like grey in grey and most of the landscape has lost it’s brilliant colour. All the green grass is more ochre-brownish and seems generally less appealing. But it’s low season and the life is very quite and relaxing during this time of year – especially on the famous parts of the west coast. No tourist masses to distract you, cheap accomodations and rental cars making decisions easier and even the infamous Ring of Kerry is almost empty.
Here in this particular image somewhere on the Dingle peninsula it was a pretty grey and dark evening. It was just after sunset and the road was on the corner of some thick cloud layers. The contrasts were small, but there was still enough light to shoot without a tripod (thanks to the fullframe sensor ;)). I saw this lake with its cloud layer on top and all the grey and brown tones around and thought to give it a try. I wanted to see what happens if i frame the dark spot with a naturally bright frame.
I positioned the lake – the dark spot – in the center (horizontally, vertically it still meets the golden rule) and framed it with the brighter white fog and clouds. On a standard picture a skilled photographer would do the exact opposite: He would frame a bright spot in the center of an image and and frame it with some sort of darker parts. This normally pleases the human eye and it draws the attention naturally to the bright spot.
As there was not much contrast i could easily play around with them in post production. As for most of my photography i only used lightroom and only did the „oldschool“ editing. I pulled the exposure and blacks down a notch, pushed the contrasts and whites for a natural balance and added some clarity to work out the edges of the fog (and i exported the picture for web use including the Mountain Moments logo as always as a standard setting for the export).
The result is a somewhat interesting picture. There still is the golden rule for the lower part of the fog. The upper two thirds of the image is plain white and also most parts on the left and right in the lower part are quite bright comparing to the center. The attention naturally seems do be attracted to the dark spot – opposite to the rule. The bright small river in the center might be the topping on the cake that drives this „unnatural“ allocation of brightness back to a naturally appealing and interesting form. I this case b/w works perfectly: it minimize the viewers distraction to the center (the small river in the black center) comparing to a version in colour.
Break the Rules and Grow with your Photography
Break the rules, do something completely different and grow in trying so: Break the Rules and Grow with your Photography. A dark main spot as point of interest framed in brightness? You saw that it can work. A colourful sunset in black and white? Try it. A composition totally off the track without any golden ratio or golden section? Go for it!
My tipp: For any rule in photography go out and break it! Don’t break all at the same time (well, you can try and still claim it to be art ;)), go one by one. Try different ways, see what happens and try to understand why things changed.