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The 5 Basic Principles Of 'Artsy' Photography

Here are 5 principles you can use to give your photographs a more artistic feel.

| General Photography

Besides a whole lot of technical terms to deal with, photo enthusiasts are also subjected to a plethora of artistic designations necessary to acquire the exquisite vibe they’re striving for. Here are 5 widely-used but surprisingly rarely addressed principles for creating a one-of-a-kind 'artsy' photography.


1. Rule of Thumb (Rule of Thirds)

Okay, this one is not reserved exclusively to the field of photography and also applies to a wide variety of other artistic media (painting, film, design etc.) which involves compositional planning. The premise is a pretty simple one. What the photographer does, in this case, is an imaginary breakdown of the composition before the lens. The scene is divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, to acquire a grid of nine equal fields.

The main object of interest is intentionally moved away from the centre of the frame to acquire a more dynamic and exciting effect, a sense of movement if you like. This can be done both while actually snapping the shot (though it may require some expertise) or during the post-production process if the ready-made image seems to be somewhat too run-of-the-mill for your taste. The four corners of the central square are the so-called “power points”, and it is advisable that the photo subject would be positioned at least on two of them to maintain the emphasis.


The 5 Basic Principles Of 'Artsy' Photography : Rule of thirds

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2. Bokeh

Bokeh might as well be called the art of exploiting a blurry background. Technically speaking, though, Bokeh stands for the effect achieved by the light rendering the image areas that are out of focus. Coming straight from the Japanese word Boke (haze), it’s a real eye candy of an effect usually caused by chromatic aberration of the lens or the changes of the aperture shape (both of which can be intentional and adjustable).

Both “defects” are also widely practiced by photographers around the world to acquire predominant fields of bokeh. However, it often ends up with pretty tasteless and overly dim imagery where the harsh blurring steals away all the attention and creates a vision of an overly messy composition. If you consider yourself fresh to the business, the best option would be to pick an appropriate filter or a helpful editing tutorial to obtain the effect at the post-production stage.


The 5 Basic Principles Of 'Artsy' Photography : Bokeh

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3. Golden Hour

The name of the game here is pretty self-explanatory. The term “golden hour” describes the time period shortly after sunrise or minutes before the sunset when the sunlight acquires a kind of subtle effect lacking the intensity that came before it. Hues suddenly become warmer and softer while the shadows stretch longer and the levels of blue increase rapidly.

The effect works especially great for portrait photography when the gentle lighting doesn't highlight any unnecessary contouring or shadows. As you might have already envisaged, it is also great for landscape photography, mainly because the natural effects of the “golden hour” provide a more pronounced sense of dimensionality.

There's also something called the “blue hour” which stands for the twilight period of early dawn and late dusk which also provides marvelous light. 


The 5 Basic Principles Of 'Artsy' Photography :

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4. Contre-Jour

Don’t be fooled, this is not a ballet position. Although French wording can make even the most regular things appear sophisticated, this one truly is as simple as it gets. Well, on paper at least.

To make a contre-jour photo or, to be less fancy, a silhouette, one simply has to point his camera directly towards a light source with the only thing crossing the passage between the photographer and the wave of light being the photo subject. This method provides a wonderful high-contrast photograph that has a focus on the shape and contouring of the environment and the subject, thus giving the picture a kind of dramatic intensity. Beware of overexposure, though. Too much light will absolutely kill off the definition, so a lens hood is recommended to reduce the impact of glare.


The 5 Basic Principles Of 'Artsy' Photography : contre-jour

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5. Long Exposure

This one is probably the most widely used technique of them all, and rightly so considering the dreamy effect it provides. The long exposure effect is created with lengthy shutter speeds that beautifully blur any elements which are moving in front of your lens while capturing static elements with great detail.

It kind of breaks one of the fundamentals of photography as it actually captures something that photography is not usually associated with - time and movement. It’s the perfect technique for those who want to perpetuate the flow of fog and water or the dynamics of stars and night-time traffic lights. Therefore, the most appropriate shooting time would be after-hours or when light levels are low in the daytime. 


The 5 Basic Principles Of 'Artsy' Photography : Long Exposure

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In All Honesty, Though...

The truth of the matter is that none of these points guarantee you'll capture a super artsy photo. History suggests that great art usually is a direct result of an indirect action born out of improvisation and emotion rather than careful planning and methodology. This simple truth also applies to photography, so consider these points as simple guidelines rather than something that's set in stone.


About Author: Gvido Grube 

Gvido writes interesting and educational blog pieces for, a website where you can transform your images into wall art or a series of canvas prints with ease. So, if inspiration strikes and the results you capture are begging to be turned into wall art, head over to and check out all of the amazing ways your pictures can be transformed. 

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