Through my regular programme of workshops and talks I have come into contact with thousands of photographers and have been surprised by how many of them have felt hampered or constrained by the need to adhere to so called ‘rules’; under pressure to conform to a set of expectations about what they should or shouldn’t be doing in respect of their landscape photography.
As a result, I spend a lot of my time encouraging photographic anarchy and urging these photographers to break the rules and ignore some of the myths they have had fed to them by fellow photographers as well as via some photographic books and magazines.
There are several myths that I find myself attacking on a regular basis (there are over 10 in fact) but in this feature I will describe 3 of my favourites.
Myth 1 - You should set out to take photographs that will sell (if you’re a professional) or will win competitions (if you’re a photo club member).
I’ve been selling photographs for 30 years and I still cannot accurately predict which photographs will sell or the shots that other people will like. I’m frequently surprised (and sometimes disappointed) by the images of mine that become ‘best sellers’. Predictions of success are impossible to make.
But more importantly I don’t think that as creative beings we can afford to be constrained by trying to please an audience – it’s far too limiting. We must produce the images that satisfy us and let our viewers react to them as they will.
Myth 2 – You need to be in a picturesque location to take great landscape photographs.
Whilst I accept that a photogenic location can help to activate the creative juices I also know that an iconic location doesn’t guarantee great shots. In fact, picturesque locations can make it too easy, encouraging us to be lazy – to repeat the successful images that we know others have taken there before us.
I frequently find that the harder I have to work to find a shot the better the final image. It’s often the struggle, the process of making an image in difficult situations that force me to be more imaginative, more creative and to take some risks in an attempt to come up with a shot that reflects my unique view of the location.
Myth 3 – Always design your shots around one of the so called rules of composition.
‘Don’t put your subject too near the edge of the frame’, ‘Use the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Mean as the basis for your composition, ‘Never include an even number of subjects in your shot – odd numbers work much better’. I’m sure we’ve all heard these before.
But in my book rules are made to be broken. Composition should be an aesthetic choice based on what we are trying to say about our subject and sometimes that’s best done by deliberately ignoring rules. They should be treated as guidelines only.
If you would like to hear me talk in more depth about ‘Exploding the Myths of Landscape Photography’ then sign up for my Manfrotto School of Xcellence webinar
(being held at 4pm BST 20th June 2013).
Join Steve on one of his workshops by visiting his website: Steve Gosling