Ever spent time reading a photographic technique book? Or browsed through a forum looking for tips? We have and one thing stands out out the rules. Rules for composition, rules for exposure, rules for everything.
Everyone providing the advice wants us to follow them. And if we did that, it would be a very bland world. I have read of people stating that sports photographs should be cropped in onto the subject. But what about the action? Why would you want a very tight frame crop of one person? Surely you would want to show more of what is happening and give the image some context? I regularly view Darren Heath’s website, and he takes some fantastic images (which would explain why he is one of the top F1 photographers), that don’t follow all the rules laid out to us. He rarely fills the entire frame, and has a particular skill at conveying speed and the individual. Cars will sometimes be sparsely placed in a frame, conveying one driver, one car, against all the odds stacked against them. A tight crop stifles the creativity and imagination of the photographer, and the viewer. Tight crops are required for Journalistic shots where the celebration of a sportsperson may be the key image.
We approach photographs of people with the same ethos; a tight crop is dull. It is much more interesting to provide a bit of context an interest to the casual viewer to try and tell a short story. Take the photograph above of our guide in Chernobyl, we could have taken a photograph of him face onto the camera at some point during the trip, but we managed to catch a few photographs of him regaling a story of growing up in Communist times whilst one of our group listened intently. This made for a much more interesting photo in our eyes.
The other rule I find astounding is the constant thought that landscapes should have some foreground interest. When was the last time someone stood on top of a view point and thought that the rocks in the foreground were interesting? OK, maybe a geological surveyor might, but I go and stand on top of a hill and enjoy the view. I personally will admit that I struggle to capture the view I see, but I try to use the lay of the land to draw the eye through the photo to allow the viewer to take in the whole scene. I find a rock placed in the foreground utterly distracting and very boring.
Photography is all about personal preference, I could sit here and rant on about how forum users/posters advise on following all sorts of rules. But it would be a waste of breathe, as one mans treasure is another mans trash. We do follow some rules, as we are comfortable with the output they give us and there are some simple camera handling basics that are a must. There isn’t much point to this article, other than to say stick to the man and find your own path.
This rant was induced by bad advice seen on a forum recently and the same articles being recycled in magazines continually; we realise that us saying that rules should be shunned is probably one of the biggest cliches in photography. Toss.
Disclaimer – photography is a very personal affair, which causes many people to be very passionate about it. These are the opinions of the author, you may in fact like the rules we have talked about.