Rules in Photography

Disclaimer: The images added to this blog post are just images – they are not meant to illustrate anything at all.

It is not unlikely that I am a bit childish when I have this strong negative reaction when a newsletter arrives in my inbox where the heading for instance reads: “5 rules to follow when composing an image” or something similar.

I have a lot of personal preferences when it comes to photography. However, I try to avoid making rules or laws based on what I prefer.

floating rock tyrifjorden

Sunrise Tyrifjorden, Norway. Pentax K-1, Pentax 15-30

In my thinking photography is a creative way of expressing how we see things or a way of mirroring our personality with its likes and dislikes. And none of that can be contained within the boundaries of various rules. I honestly don’t think it is healthy to legislate taste or create a framework on how things ought to look.

I would have been far more positive if the heading read: “10 approaches to consider when composing a landscape image”.

When I am out shooting I solely work on intuition based on what my eyes see through the viewfinder, and how what I see impacts me. Do I get a sense of harmony and balance, or does what I see create a sort of disharmony in me? I notice I have a tendency to gravitate towards the golden rule or divide things into thirds, but far from always.

Jevnaker kirke pentax

Jevnaker, Norway. Pentax K-1, Pentax 70-200

I also notice that I prefer simple compositions and often try to avoid complexity or compositions with too many disturbances. Sometimes I like lines – at other times lines do not work at all. Quite often I like to have strong foreground elements that work as anchors or balance things or add visual interest to a scene. However, that is not either a rule I follow simply because it may not be possible to find a foreground that works, or that I omit it completely for other reasons.

Admittedly, I have deleted thousands of raw files which for various reasons didn’t look as appealing on the computer screen as they did out in the field. At other times the opposite is true. And sometimes I know I have images on my memory card that will be deleted, but I shot them anyway just for the fun of it.

When all this is mentioned I have no problems admitting that “rules” can be of help in the beginning helping people towards a sort of structure while they work towards carving out their own way. For my own part I cannot draw conclusions or make rules based upon the complex interactions between eyes, brain and emotions – usually it is impossible to articulate why something works in my eyes or why something doesn’t work. I can only to a certain degree articulate what I notice about myself.

Full moon rising

Full moon rising – our house is approx 500 meter straight ahead.

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