Category Archives: Rules

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.

Scale

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).

Background

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.

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5 Rules of Photography In No Particular Order

I was wracking my brains for a new post since I have had absolutely ZERO opportunities to actually go out and find something to photograph, and I happened to read a post from The Incredible Lightness of Seeing who read a post from yet another photographer’s blog, which gave me an idea for a post of my own.  This whole photography-rules-thing goes on and on, with the same set of rules written differently depending upon the photographer’s writing style.  Below are five rules I consider important, not in any particular order, and in my own writing style….well, ok, actually, there are more rules than that  – depends on what a photographer considers to be a rule.  These five rules I use for my own photography work, and I’ll save the other rules (that I use) for future posts (so I won’t have to wrack my brain as much).

Leading Lines

The idea with any image is to capture the viewer’s attention and interest (in addition to capturing a memory of the scene ).  One way to do this is to choose a scene (or arrange the scene) in such a way that lines within the image lead the viewer’s eye from one thing to another – be it from the foreground to the infinite horizon, or from one end of a maze to another, or from a pointer to the thing at which the pointer is pointing.  The lines may be roads, fences, a pointing arm, or just something leading the eye from Point A to Points Onward.

Rule of Thirds

This is one of my favorite rules.


The Rule of Thirds goes something like this:  If you divide your camera’s viewfinder into thirds – be it thirds horizontally or vertically – then place the subject of your image in one of those compartments (just so long as it’s not in the middle), it creates more interest, sometimes more drama, and it also focuses the viewer’s eye more on the subject.  That’s not to say that sticking something smack dab in the middle of your photo isn’t interesting – it can be, depending on the subject or the story told, and it’s also nice sometimes just to screw with other photographers’ mindsets.

Patterns

Patterns add interest, symmetry, and focus to an image.  The patterns can occur naturally (snowflakes, frost on a limb, cracks on a frozen river), or they can be man-made (as in the following photos).

Framing

Framing a scene focuses the viewer’s eye on a particular point or subject within the image; it adds emphasis to the image.  A “frame” can be anything from a window or door, to tree limbs, to something as goofy as your own hands or fingers.  And it doesn’t have to be a complete frame.  As you see in my photos below, I added parts of tree limbs and such to just one portion of my image, and yet it helps to frame that entire image and focus your eye even moreso upon the subject.

Horizons (keep ’em straight – unless you deliberately don’t want to)

Something that elicits quite a bit of (oftentimes derogatory) commentary is a tilted horizon; did the photographer simply slap that photo onto Flickr without any QC, or did they actually mean for the horizon line to be skewed like that??  Sometimes, the tilt is intentional and actually adds more interest to the image.  Other times, though, it’s an annoyance, as when a land/mountain or water/land horizon is tilted even just a little bit, thus causing a distraction.  One way to remedy this is to use your tripod’s built-in level, or to purchase one of those levels that snap into the camera’s hot shoe (that thing on top of the camera where you place your flash unit).  I use a combination of my tripod’s level and – believe it or not – just “eyeballing it”.  I have a pretty good eye for these things.  If the horizon is just a teeeeensy bit tilted, it’s easy to correct during the post processing.  Adobe Lightroom has a cropping/rotating tool that I really like, and Adobe Photoshop CS5 has a straighten-and-crop tool that allows you to draw a line from Point A to Point B, then will straighten and crop the extraneous portions of the photo for you.  Pretty cool, actually.

Ok.  That’s it for now, folks.  Next post will deal with other photographic rules, so stay tuned!

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