09/03/2007

Rules for the rules


If you have only just recently taken up photography as a hobby, or perhaps you intend making a career out of it, you will sooner or later find that there are certain rules, which I prefer to call "guidelines", to the actual composition or setting up of a photograph. If at this stage you are not aware of them, might I suggest you start reading up on the subject, (here's a good place to start) otherwise your images will somewhat be lacking in what is accepted as certain criteria needed for good image production.
Unfortunately, there are rules for whatever we do in life and if we stick to those rules, we will succeed, eventually!
Photographic rules are laid down, not only because of the competitiveness in the industry, but also for those novices wishing to improve on their image making skills. I might also add here, that most of these rules were handed down and used by many classic painters, long before photography was even thought of and no doubt these fine artists became famous, because they knew how to apply them to better their trade.
Most photographic rules are psychologically based. In other words, they are incorporated into the making of the image to encourage the emergence of certain emotions felt by the viewer when seeing the photograph for the first time. This is where the phrase, "A first impression is a lasting impression", takes on real meaning.
Have you ever wondered why some photographs appeal to you more than others?
Do you prefer to look at landscapes, sunsets or seascapes? The choice and preference of art is a personal and psychological one and no two photographers will see or photograph the same scene the same way, but there will always be just that certain something that stirs the mind and emotions when viewing an image, that releases and brings out that "WOW" factor.
A very obvious psychological aspect of photography would be the correct use and placement of light and colour. Light and its many attributes are the very essence of image making, and without light, colour would not exist and neither would photography. Or us, for that matter!
But light can also make or break an image, and taking that into consideration, certain rules apply in order for you to use light wisely and to ultimately achieve a reasonable, if not better result.
Other rules, such as, the "rule of thirds", the "rule of odds", the "level horizon line" rule, the "keep it simple" rule, the "Balance" rule, the "get in close" rule, the "fill the frame" rule, the "negative space" rule, the rule where you make the decision as to whether you should shoot the scene holding the camera horizontally (landscape mode) or vertically (portrait mode).
In composition, the use of the "elements" of composition design, such as, leading lines, shapes, form, texture, etc. all of which can be explained to you in full detail in my chapters on "Composition design" part 1 - 7. So, whether you take photography very seriously, or you just want to take better photos, if you have a broad knowledge of these rules, and you put them to good use when composing your images, your family and friends will praise you on what you have taken and will always want to see more of your work.
Think of that as your inspiration and accept that the rules are there for your benefit and ultimately, the benefit and pleasure of those who view your work.

"Here's another bright idea" . . .

Well, not so much an idea, more an anecdote, but I think you'll get the idea!
A wedding photographer was going over some preview shots with the bride to be and her mother. They were both very impressed with his work and the mother of the bride to be said, "Oh, what lovely photos, they're absolutely magnificent, you must have a really good camera to take photos like these!"
The photographer showed no sign of being the least bit put out, but instead, just nodded, smiled politely and said nothing.
As it was getting on in the evening, the bride's mother asked the photographer if he would like to stay and have dinner with them.
"That'd be lovely." He said. "Yes thank you, I'd love to stay!"
After the meal had been dished up and he'd taken a few mouthfuls, he looked up at the woman and said, "I've just got to tell you, this meal is absolutely tops. Everything is cooked so well. You must have a magnificent stove."

I suppose, if there is a moral to this, it would have to be, "Your camera doesn't make images, you do."
Just as, your stove doesn't actually do the cooking. . .