A Few More “Rules” Of Photography (To Be Followed Or Not)

As I mentioned in my last post, there are really quite a number of “rules” of photography.  Some of them you really do need to follow to ensure a decent shot, but others are more or less optional (so I don’t know if that means they really aren’t rules, or if they are rules that can be broken with no repercussions). The rules listed in this post are optional, but still quite helpful.

Fill The Frame

This is definitely an optional rule, depending on what you want to see.  Filling the frame means getting as much of your subject into the frame as possible, without any extraneous, distracting background or useless “dreck”.  For the mushroom photo, this works quite well.  I don’t want a whole bunch of grass in the photo (ok, you might, but I don’t).

However, for the photo of the man and the handprint background (which, btw, uses another rule I mentioned in a previous post), filling the frame is optional, depending upon what you wish to convey.   As you can see, filling the frame can totally change the focus of a photo.


I don’t think many landscape photographers care much for scale, because that usually involves including people in the photo, and the object of most landscape photogs is to to capture the vista sans humans.  I like scale.  I like showing the magnitude of the main subject by including lesser subjects – even human ones – in the photo.  It tells a story and gives the viewer a sense of the vastness that might not otherwise be comprehensible.

See the little photographers along the road?

See the little cars in the right lower corner of the road?

See the people standing at the viewpoint to the left of the image?

See the little rider standing on the horse’s back, holding the American flag from which fireworks are spewing?

Perspective (aka Viewpoint)

Perspective (or viewpoint) may mean you are taking the photo from below looking up, from the top looking down, or simply changing the photo from a horizontal to a vertical, rather than capturing the image full-on.  Perspective adds interest and focus on the subject, even if the photo isn’t facing the subject full-on.

This photo of the Glacier Park Lodge lobby also uses the sense-of-depth “rule” that I mention next.

Sense of Depth

Landscape photographers are always trying to convey a sense of depth to their scenes.  Photography is a 2-dimensional medium (well, unless you are using a stereographic camera), and the photographer wants to show the viewer as much of the same sense of depth (3-D’ness) as they themselves witnessed when they captured the shot.  This is created by including a foreground, middleground, and background.  Sense of depth is also created when you overlap things, like layers.  The viewer sees one layer, which leads their eye to another layer, which leads their eye to another layer – kinda like taking a mirror and facing it toward another mirror so that you get reflections (layers) going on and on and on to give you a sense of deepness (aka depth).


I actually wrote a previous post on just this rule, alone.  It’s a good one (both the rule and the post).  Be aware of the background against which you capture your image.  Sometimes the background helps to tell the story, but at other times, it may be no more than an annoying distraction that takes away from your subject.  In that case, you might think about changing your background by either moving your subject a little, using a professional backdrop or one of those digital backdrops, cropping out the offending parts – if possible, taking the background in your photo and blurring it, or, a combination of the above.

Carry A Camera With You

This rule is totally optional, but totally helpful.  I don’t carry my SLRs with me to work on a daily basis – they don’t fit in my purse and are heavy to lug around constantly.  I do carry my smartphone and a point-and-shoot (Canon Powershot G11) in my purse – originally just to capture any fender benders I might have the misfortune to experience (I’m a good little driver – dunno about all the other Texas crazies out there), but now, I carry it with me for those “just in case” moments, because as a photographer, you never know what experience is out there ready to be captured on the spur of the moment.


Filed under Photography, Rules

3 responses to “A Few More “Rules” Of Photography (To Be Followed Or Not)

  1. I like the idea of always carrying a camera with me – sort of a New Year’s Resolution. Inevitably, two weeks down the line it has already proven valuable!

  2. Great tips. I appreciate the photo examples to show the differences. I’ve been trying to find a photo workshop (I need hands-on) to further my knowledge, but South Jersey is devoid of anything cultural–for the most part. I think I’ll have to take the train into Philly . . .

  3. Pingback: Random Thoughts for 1/22/2012 | The Tattered Thread