The Tuesday Composition: Not so much rules…

And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules
–Barbossa, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

Today I’m going to take a brief digression from specific compositional topics, back up, and talk about compositional “rules”.  I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating.

They’re not rules.

Lithodendron Wash Abstract
Lithodendron Wash Abstract. I didn't shoot this based on "rules", I shot it based on intuition. (Image created as part of the National Park Service Artist-in-Residence Program at Petrified Forest NP.)

By this point in the Tuesday Composition series I’ve written about almost thirty ideas, each of which could be thought of as one (or perhaps a couple of) rules. But using them as rules will, in the end, limit your creative reach as a photographer. I urge you, in fact, I beg you not to use them as rules, either when you create your own images or, just as importantly, you look at an image of another photographer.

Let’s talk about that. It’s easier to begin this discussion by thinking not only about our own work but someone else’s. When I see a new image from a book, an advertisement, whatever, the first thing I do is to look at it, to see it. I do not drag out my list of rules and walk through it adding up a score. Instead, I look, and feel what I feel, notice what I feel. I don’t start with an analytical process, I start with an intuitive, visual process. (more…)

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