Why Photography Composition Rules?

In fact these photography composition rules help simplify something that was particularly hard to define.  Effectively, how would you instruct new artist to create something that is nice to most peoples? These rules are among the first things that we learn in any kind of art.

As such, we stay on the safe side when following photography composition rules. We then avoid risks and our picture will be nice to most peoples.  Is this what you want?

In fact I would like to think that Photography Composition Rules are there to help us support and enhance our message as a photographer.  As such breaking the rules often create some tension which in turn grab the attention.  When I take a picture I ask myself “How can I grab the attention a little more?”

Breaking the photography compositions rules - An example

Photography composition rules were not followed in this example

Today’s picture is a simple one. A single man is walking on the beach in the setting sun.  As far as photography composition rules are concerned, there are multiple problems with this picture:

  • Subject is not on a third line;
  • There is a lot of dead space, also known as negative space, in front of it;
  • Horizon line is in the middle of the frame.

Why should you break photography composition rules?

It is sometime good to break these rules and more so when you want to convey a message with your picture.  Rules of composition tells us to put our subject according to the rule of third.  The rule of thirds suggest that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines.  As a result, important elements would be positioned on these lines or their intersections.  Doing so make the overall composition more pleasing to the viewer.

By creating a tension in breaking rules, we can potentially enhance our message.

Breaking the composition rules enabled me to enhance the following:

  • The sense of loneliness in the way this man is inclined forward and his head looking down;
  • Additionally this large dead space in front of him helps increase the impression of loneliness of this man;
  • Although the sunset is colorful, we feel that this man is not enjoying the moment;

All these decisions were intentional on my part when I took the picture.  I saw this man coming from far away slowly walking in our direction.  I frame the shot to create this feeling of loneliness that I felt looking at him coming on that beach.  By intentionally breaking these rules my intention was to help the audience understand the loneliness of this man walking alone in the setting sun.

Know the rules in order to break the rules!

In order to break these photography composition rules a good starting point would be to know them.  Varina Patel tells us in her eBook title:”Building an Image from the ground up” how Composition and Perception comes together to create a powerful image.

Now what do you think?

Does this composition help the picture or not?

A few interesting arctiles on the topic:

About Composition Rules and ways to break them

Expertphotography.com : How to break the rules

Contrastly.com : Rules you can break

About yourself, when do you break the rules of composition?

Denis Grenier
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