on photographic “rules” and why I tell my students that I don’t teach “rules”.

Predicted Behaviour.  That’s what happens when beginners hear you say that “it’s supposed to be like this, or like that” and pretty soon everyone is doing exactly what they “selectively heard”.

Specifically, I am talking about two very common “rules” they will have read or heard somewhere, but minus the context of the entire conversation.  1) the rule of thirds, and,  2) avoiding using the center to place the subject in.

People very often will unconsciously drop the context of the entire discussion and just remember the keywords, such as “only amateurs will place the subject in the center” and commit that to memory; forgetting such other contextual words such as BALANCE, which in composition means virtually the rest of the world.  Professional Photographers such as myself will usually have a way of putting balance into the shot once we start moving the subject out of the center square, because we remember that there HAS TO BE BALANCE somewhere.  We do not just move it out because we read it somewhere that only amateurs do that.   We do not.  And you should not.  Unless there is a compelling reason to do so, other than just reading it somewhere.

For those of you lucky enough to have attended my compositional class (day 1, the creative side of photography for serious hobbyists) there is a reason why I had you take 4 photographs of seashells and electrical tape, alone, with a 180second time limit.  This is to show that given certain shapes, the composition is primarily dictated by the shape, as well as it’s positioning. You cannot simply just avoid putting a solitary subject outside of the center square just for the heck of it.

The same goes for THE RULE OF THIRDS.  We professional photographers do things visually because it makes the viewing a little bit more exciting.  But often, all the amateur photographer sees is just that the subject has been moved to one side, and does not see that we have usually ADDED a secondary subject on the other side to create BALANCE.  So, a shot by a beginner hearing only the RULE OF THIRDS will have the subject positioned to one side but WILL PROBABLY not have a secondary subject to balance the entire composition.

Understand the context of the rule before actually committing it to memory.

So now you know why I do not teach the RULES.

(all my Philippine students who comment on this post will receive a GROUP VIP tutorial on COMPOSITIONAL THEORIES, for free) 

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