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Rules Are Made To Be Broken16/12/2008 - 10:34 AM
When we learn how to take photographs, we come across a lot of rules. Rules for lighting, exposure, depth of field, etc., etc.
And I suppose it makes sense. The technical side of photography is quite an exact science. Doing this or that, results in such or so. That's logical.
Anyone who has done science at school will understand and accept that. When you're capturing light, there are some laws of nature and science to adhere to if you want to get a certain result.
But there are creative sides to photography as well, sides that aren't as exact as science - in fact, they're not exact at all. These aspects of photography allow you to do what you want.
Composition, for instance, is a creative process. How you compose a photo, is completely up to you. You can point the camera in any direction you like, at any angle, in any kind of orientation (landscape or portrait, or anything in between), you can include and exclude anything you want.
But since we're used to working with rules, we try to impose compositional rules on photographers as well. The rule of thirds is a well-known example. (That's quite an old rule, actually, which existed long before photography was invented.) But there are many more. (You can find some examples here.)
The trouble with using rules, is that they inhibit creativity. And I wonder if we don't seriously hinder our progress in that creative process when we try to adhere to rules. Wouldn't it be better to just go with our instincts and feelings when composing a picture, rather than a set of rules?
Let me give you an example. I found this very interesting indeed.
I took some photos of one and the same horse. This is the shot I uploaded first. Although it was well liked, there were two slightly critical* comments about the composition: "... I ... wish there [was] slightly more space on the left", and "I'd be tempted to crop a little off the right so that the horse's head [was] not so centred". And to be fair, when thinking about it, I also thought I might have done better if I had given the horse just a little bit more space on the left, and I wondered if I hadn't given it too much space on the right. But those thoughts were based on rules, not on creativity and instinct! People really liked the shot, it quickly gained a lot of votes, and it even got an HC award. (Most of the votes were gained before it got the HC, I would like to add, a consideration which becomes interesting when you read on - just in case you think the high number of votes was mainly due to getting the award...)
When I get comments about the composition of a photo, I check if I can "fix" it in Photoshop, or I go back to my photo folder and see if I spotted the problem myself and took a photo with a different composition. And as luck would have it, there was such a photo!
The new shot, which was taken only seconds after the previous one, was processed in almost exactly the same way as the first, but it was composed differently. This is the second horse shot that I uploaded. Note that the requested space on the left is there, and also the requested lesser space on the right.
But - the first shot has 80 votes and an HC, whereas the second shot has 34 votes and only a click from Pete without an HC!
That certainly made me think. The first shot was taken instinctively, in a series of shots where the horse was moving - in this shot it had only just come to a halt. I seem to remember that I then thought of the compositional rules, re-composed and took the next shot.
So - which is better?
Well, my feeling when taking the shots, was that number one was the better image. Number two was taken after I started thinking about it. And my first preference when selecting photos for upload, was also for number one. (And it looks like both the members of EPZ in general and the Editor agreed with that instinct.)
The shot I took based on the rules was still a nice shot, and it did gain enough votes and comments to make me feel that it was worth taking that way, but I am inclined to think that it looks like you can't beat instinct, feeling and creativity.
What do you think?
* Please note that I welcome critical comments/critiques on my photos, and that I always try to learn from them. I myself was the one who marked these comments as constructive critique.