The 10 Rules to Break in Photography


Rule 10 of Lomography: Don't worry about any rules.. Why? Well, read these simple ideas that will stimulate your creativity while going beyond the academic rules of composition.

Rule 10 of Lomography: Don’t worry about any rules. Maybe, before the beginning of the Lomography, these things were already “written” in the book “Principles of Composition in Photography” by the great LIFE photographer Andreas Feininger. Here are some of his considerations.

The few rules of composition are acceptable only as reference points, which may have many valid exceptions. Sometimes breaking the rules is a means to obtain a good photo. Of course, this is true if and only if the photographer is aware of what he’s doing.

So, here is how Feininger, in his book, dismantles many academic rules:

1. The golden section (and, I add, the rule of thirds, ie. to place the subject at 1/3 from one edge of the photo), while ensuring peace and harmony, can be boring.

2. The “S”-shape curve is one of the most repeated patterns in photography

3. The theory of “guidelines”, which lead the viewer’s eye to the main subject, is false, as demonstrated by scientific studies. The eye quickly detects the most interesting part of the picture. And then, not necessarily the main subject of the photographer coincides with the center of attention of the observer.

4. Threads of compositions based on triangles, diagonals and other refined geometric figures exists only in the minds of photographers who have invented them. The academic observer who is free from preconceptions, does not care about such rules.

5. The horizon line should never split the photo in two equal parts, to avoid a monotone (boring) images. But if the photographer wanted to express the sensations of boredom?

Credits: sirio174

6. Movement and action should always proceed from left to right, according to the normal sense of the reading. False: Jews and Arabs read from the right to the left!

7. The space in front of the subject should be greater than the space behind him. It is not always true: for example, a running person, placed towards the edge of the picture in the direction of its motion, gives an impression of arrival, and this is important when you are photographing sporting events (such as running races in athletics).

Credits: sirio174

8. In the portrait, when the subject looks at the camera, you should leave more space in the direction of his eyes. False. Violating this rule can give a state of tension to the photo.

9. The bright parts of a photo catch the eye more than dark. False, a dark form with well-defined boundaries, in a large and clear area, immediately attracts the eye.

10. Repetition and spatial periodicity of similar elements can produce interesting patterns. False. There is no reason why a grid or a series of many identical and uninteresting objects is better than one object worthy of interest.

On the other hand, as Feininger said in its book, there are at least three rules in which he has never found an exception:

1. The small white areas of the subject or of the background situated near the edges of the photo gives the impression of a print “gnawed by rats”. These areas should be burned (blackened) in the darkroom (or cropped)

2. Curves and round forms should never touch the edges of the photo, but should be cut with courage, leaving out of the picture a not negligible part of the curve

Credits: sirio174

3. The straight lines should not end in a corner of the photo, but should terminate at a certain distance from it.

Credits: sirio174

I hope these 10 rules to “break”, together with the 10 Golden Rules of the Lomography can help your creativity!

Sources for this article include Andreas Feininger’s Photographic Seeing (1973) and Principles of Composition in Photography (1973).

written by sirio174 on 2012-04-05 in #gear #tipster


  1. tall_bastard
    tall_bastard ·

    I have only one rule - no rules!

  2. sommer
    sommer ·

    fantastic article!!! really interesting and easy to understand!

  3. marguxx
    marguxx ·

    Good to know!

  4. mscagli1
    mscagli1 ·

    Great article! Take that, rules!

  5. cutebun
    cutebun ·

    something new to learn!

  6. sibu_sen
    sibu_sen ·

    Love it! Always inspiring to have some rules to break. :)

  7. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    What's missing here is a discussion of some of the rules that govern color photography. For example, it is often said that brown is not an attractive color -- that one should stick to the fruity colors like red, yellow, and green.

  8. emperornorton
    emperornorton ·

    One thought: if you see lines and angles as a helpful way to construct your photos, by all means do so, but don't etch it in stone and drop them on the heads of others who see with different eyes.

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