Breaking Rules of Composition in Photography

Chances are, you’re familiar with the old adage that “rules are meant to be broken.” Photography is no exception to the saying. As David Bergman explains, although many of the rules and conventions photographers stick to are tried and true, often the most striking images ignore them entirely:

Here are a few instances in which breaking the rules can actually benefit your images.

Ignore the Rule of Thirds

breaking rule of thirds

One of the first compositional guides most photographers are provided with is to follow the rule of thirds. That is, if you were to separate your image into thirds horizontally and vertically, you’d want the most powerful aspects of the photo to meet at one or more of the crosshairs. However, in some circumstances, placing a subject directly in the center of a frame can command attention—especially if there is surrounding symmetry to emphasize the image’s focal point.

Shoot Toward the Sun

shooting toward sun

Generally, you’ll want your subject to be as evenly lit as possible. This means shooting with your back toward the sun or a light source so that the person or object being photographed can soak up as much of the light as possible. However, there are situations in which switching positions can be incredibly beneficial. Shooting toward the light may shroud your subject in darkness, but in some instances a mysterious silhouette can really add to the overall mood and feel of a photograph.

Bring in Negative Space

using negative space

Photographers just getting their footing are often encouraged to fill their frames as much as possible to avoid including information that might detract from the purpose of the photograph. However, a plentitude of negative space can sometimes have an opposite effect, immediately directing the eye to the photo’s subject. Conversely, making your subject “small” can sometimes add to the story that you’re trying to tell through your photograph.

“All rules are meant to be broken.”

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