Break the Rules and allow Creativity to Flow

Mar 12, 2019

One of the things I quickly realized when I was a new photographer is that there are many rules in photography. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. Gah! It can be overwhelming, right? Rules are essential, though, and they help you create stronger images and messages within your photographs. Rules, however, are meant to be broken. Intentional rule-breaking in photography can result in very impactful images. Rule-breaking is also freeing, and in that freedom comes enormous creativity. My advice is to learn the rules and then learn to break them. Here are a few photography rules I think are meant to be broken.

1. Compose using the rule of thirds

Finding good composition in photography is essential to creating a strong image. One of the most basic rules of composition is that images should be composed using the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a simple technique in which your frame is divided into thirds on the horizontal and vertical axis. This rule states that your composition should place a subject along one of these lines. The theory behind the rule of thirds is that this composition is pleasing and comfortable for your audience. 

One of my favourite ways to break this rule is when I choose a centre composition. I enjoy using centre compositions to enhance symmetry and balance within my frame. Centre compositions can infuse a harmonious and peaceful feeling into an image.

ISO 100, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/800SS

2. Never shoot up the nose

This rule definitely must be broken! It's an interesting perspective when you shoot up at your subject. This perspective gives a wonderful sense of freedom, height and power! 

ISO 1000, 16mm, f4, 1/1000

3. Use a fast shutter speed

Slowing down your shutter speed is magical. Using a slow shutter speed is a beautiful and whimsical way of incorporating movement into your images. In my landscape photography, this is one of my favourite creative techniques. The movement and dreaminess of slow shutter speed captivate me every single time. 


ISO 100, 16mm, f14, 30sec

4. Make sure your subject is in focus

I’m a stickler for focus when it comes to my images. Sharp focus is essential. The sharper, the better. However, there are times when I think a purposefully out of focus image is both captivating and dynamic.

ISO 100, 105mm, 2.8f, 1/1250SS

5. Make sure your subject is well exposed

Moody images can be incredibly powerful. A well-exposed for subject can look out of place in a moody image. Underexposing is an excellent way to incorporate drama and mystery into a capture. Not all images need to have good exposure. Exposure can also be used creatively, and in a way, that enhances the message or story within your image. 

ISO 1600, 50mm, Freelensed, 1/200SS

6. Keep subject eye line in the frame

I remember receiving a critique early on in my photography journey that made me take significant pause and give thought to for some time. The feedback I received talked about how I should avoid having my subject’s eye line leave the frame. I understand now that this can cause the viewer to plummet out of the frame quickly and not stay within the frame examining the image; however, I adore the senses of shyness within these types of images. I think the eye line can help tell a story within an image.  

ISO 200, 105mm, 3.2f, 1/2000SS

7. Stay away from all dappled light

Again, early on in my photography, I was told to stay away from dappled light. These days I embrace it like crazy when it’s available! Dappled light is as beautiful as it is intriguing, and I adore the play between the highlights and shadows. Dappled light is some of my favourite creative light.

ISO 500, 35mm, 3.2f, 1/250SS

Rules are meant to be broken. I think purposeful rule-breaking can result in powerful images. Think about how you can incorporate some of the rule breakers in this article in your photographers to create stronger images. 

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