Rules schmules…are there really hard and fast rules to follow when taking pictures? Yes…and no. For professional photographers there are moments when traditions and rules are required, and for all photographers there are those wonderful opportunities to forget about the rules and just have some creative fun.
What rules are we talking about? Everything from framing and perspective to lighting and composition can be challenged in order to produce some excellent results.
For example, when taking a photograph why not simply tilt the camera at an angle. Does this present an interesting view? Not all lines must be straight and in their proper locations, and breaking this rule might introduce some energy or fun into an otherwise standard image. It is important for the photographer to remember, however, that if the rules of horizontal and vertical alignment are going to be broken, they must be totally broken or else the image may just look crooked.
Another rule that can be ignored is “focus”. It really is okay to take a photograph if the subject is blurred; this can create an impression or mood, or may ask the viewer to deeply examine the image. For example, instead of focusing on the child chasing the bubbles, focus on one of two of the bubbles and leave the happy youngster somewhat blurry in the background. While the overall image will be easily understood the portrait will be incredibly unique.
If you’re not one for blurry images, why not use an ISO that is too high for the light, creating a grainy or “noisy” image. Sure, many photo editing programs can apply a filter for almost the same effect, but it is more fun to experiment with the settings to see the full range of natural effects on the subject of the photograph. This is particularly effective with black and white photography.
Feel like challenging the traditional guidelines for photographic composition? Then forget about the “rule of thirds”. While this is an effective method of composing some of the best photographs, it can also present some limitations to creativity, and that is never good. Forgo the three part grid and just snap the pictures as you would like, which means that a portrait with the subject staring straight from the centre of the image is just fine.
Are there other rules for composition that can be safely ignored? Sure, another common rule that can be dismissed applies to “active space”. This means when shooting an image of an object in motion it would usually have space allotted for it to enter into. For example, the football player heading up the field should have some empty space in the frame ahead of him, but by ignoring active space the runner would have the field behind him. This can introduce some compelling energy and anticipation into a photograph.