Compositional rules are there as guides but that doesn't mean you always have to use them. Sometimes breaking the rules can help you create an image that's far more striking, so here's ten more ways how breaking the guidelines can help you create an image that has far more impact.
Centre Your Subject
With the rule of thirds, you have to ensure that your main point of focus is positioned on one or more of the four intersecting lines on the nine square grid you have to imagine is sitting over your image.
However, there are some shots where placing your subject in the middle of it will give you a more striking image. For example, a road or path stretching off towards the horizon, starting so it fills the frame and winding away until it vanishes can look better when positioned in the centre.
The same goes for shots with lots of symmetry. A long table that's set for dinner with rows of chairs and lines of plates, glasses and cutlery on it will make a more interesting photograph if positioned in the centre of the frame, while photographing escalators, steps, piers and tunnels so they sit in the centre of the frame can help exaggerate their length, giving the impression that they go on forever. Portraits are more pleasing to the eye when you use the rule of thirds grid but if you're shooting a portrait that has a more creepy, unusual feel to it, positioning your subject in the centre of the shot will enhance this uneasy feeling.
Photo by Peter Bargh
Split Your Image In Two
When you're working with the horizon or lines you should avoid splitting the image in two, so horizons should be slightly higher or lower, depending where the interest is and lines should be positioned to the left or right of the centre line. However, cutting your image in two will give you a shot that has a lot of impact, particularly if you're going for something more abstract where strong blocks of colour are your focus.
Keeping your horizons level and your shots straight is a rule that's important for landscapes but there are other subjects where tilting your camera will give them more energy and a sense of excitement/fun. If you're going to do this, make sure you do it properly, really turning your camera. If you don't, it'll look like you were going for a straight shot and angled your camera by mistake.
Photo by David Burleson
Play With White Balance
Capturing shots with the right colour temperature is something that's important the majority of the time, however there are occasions when using the wrong preset or making adjustments after in post production will help boost colours, make shots more interesting and fun. For example, you can emphasis the coolness of a winter scene with blue tones and give more warmth to Autumn landscapes to enhance the orange and yellows that are prominent during the season.
Use Higher ISOs
For shots that are clean and sharp, you'll generally need to use the lowest ISO possible. Of course there are many cameras now that cope quite well at higher ISO levels, and they won't leave noise in your shots. However, if you have a camera that still struggles at higher levels, use it to your advantage, shooting some grainy images.
If you don't want to create the look in-camera, shoot at a lower ISO and run your image through photo editing software and apply your grain digitally. The grain works even better with black and white shots so while you have your editing software open, try converting your coloured shot into something much more moody. Portraits are good subjects for this but if you have a few landscape shots you've taken on dull days, try converting them to black and white, add a little grain and a grungy frame and you'll breath life back into a boring shot.
Make The Most Of Out Of Focus Shots
For a more dream-like composition, try throwing your whole frame out of focus. A wide aperture will be needed and you'll probably have to focus manually to stop your lens focusing on something in the frame. You want the shot to be out of focus just enough to make it look like you did it intentionally but still leave enough detail to make the scene recognisable. Your other option is to blur what would be considered as your main point of focus and have something in front or behind them sharp. A more subtle way to use the effect is by creating a soft focus portrait. Take a look at our Photoshop Tutorial
for more information on how to do this.
Move Your Camera While Taking A Shot
The 'try to keep your camera as still as possible' rule only applies when you're not going for a strong, abstract shot that's full of energy. If you're photographing action, a car speeding along a track or dancers spinning in a circle, moving your camera while you take your shot will add a little blur that can increase the feeling of speed and excitement.
Using a slightly slower speed than you'd usually use to capture action will further enhance their movement and you probably don't need to move your camera to do this. Again, having part of the shot a little sharper than the rest will give your viewer a focus point. Try zooming your lens barrel out or in through the exposure too to create a zoom burst. You'll probably want a tripod to hand for this as it makes it easier to turn the barrel of the lens. Zoom bursts work well on stained glass but they can give equally good results on groups of fast moving dancers who are making their way towards you.
Try removing all sharpness from the shot with a drag landscape. We've covered this on site in a previous technique which you can find here: Drag Landscapes
Shoot From The Hip
OK, so shooting with your camera held to your eye or using your camera's screen to frame your shot isn't a rule, just more of a thing that everyone does because that's the way camera's work! But by leaving your camera by your side and 'shooting from the hip' you can get some interesting results. Sure, it can be a little hit and miss but as it doesn't look like you're taking a photograph you stand the chance of capturing much more candid results, particularly on the street.
Who Needs Space To Walk Into?
When photographing someone or something moving through your frame, the eye will naturally follow the path the subject's on and most of the time, people leave space for them to move into. However, forcing them to the other side of the frame, in the direction they're moving can create a sense of speed, giving the impression that you couldn’t keep pace with them.
Don't Use The Correct Exposure
There are occasions where deliberately over or underexposing your shot will work more creatively, giving your images more punch than if you were to select the 'correct' exposure. Changing the ISO, aperture, shutter speed or a mixture of all three will under or over expose your shot. High key images are bright, light images that are often lacking in shadows and contrast while low key images use dark tones and have a minimal amount of light in them. For more tips, take a look at this article: High And Low Key Lighting Tips
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