Rules and Rebels

Rules and rebels: an exploration of how curiosity leads to creativity

Depth Of Field
A shallow Depth Of Field by using lower f stop (f2.8)

Whether we’re new to photography or seasoned shooters we’ve all heard the rules for capturing good, even great, photos:  the rule of thirds and other composition guidelines, proper exposure, the best light is within two hours of sunrise and before sunset, etc.  Many of these rules have stood the test of time and are, in fact, the means to an end: great photography.

And yet sometimes we want to push past the limitations – and let’s face it, rules are limiting – to create something truly unique.

There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.  

Ansel Adams

With apologies to Ansel, it is true that photography, like all artistic pursuits, does have established rules and guidelines for creating pleasing images.  But what makes a photograph good, even excellent?  It’s often said a picture is worth a thousand words and photographers are the ones that write them.

There are always two people in every picture, the photographer and the viewer. A.A.

If ten people were asked to evaluate an image, we could get as many as ten different responses.  Photography has the potential to carry a strong impact.  Not only do images evoke a response in us, the way in which we respond is through our own personal filters, prejudices and preferences.  We live in an extremely busy visual world, bombarded daily with thousands of images. So what makes a good, even a great, photograph?  I believe it is when an image causes us to pause and take a closer look.  And sometimes this is achieved by breaking the rules and presenting the subject in a unique or unusual way.

A photograph is usually looked at, seldom looked into. A.A.

Images which follow the guidelines of good crafting can appeal to a wide number of viewers because they are cohesive; they make sense, even when the subject matter is unusual or disturbing.  Our brains can process and understand what we are seeing.  And yet there are times when it is completely possible to be flexible with a rule or two and still produce creative and compelling images.


Every Monday for the month of May we’ll take a closer look at some of the specific rules. But wait – there’s more!  We want to hear from you, so head on over and join our Facebook group Rebel Photographers where we will explore ways to selectively bend, break or ignore some of the rules.  We invite you to journey outside the box and participate, both through posting your own images and constructively commenting in discussions and on other members’ images.

Have a good week!


About this guest contributor:

Cheryl Wiens bought her first SLR camera in 1980, which began a happy preoccupation with photographing every thing which moved (and some things which didn’t).  She believes we are all stories in the making and appreciates photography as a mean to tell these stories.

She has been known to dissect TV commercials (and not always nicely, it must be said) looking for the story. When she’s not viewing life through a lens she enjoys spending time outdoors, good books and films, fine food and, especially, anything involving dark chocolate.

Website: Sweet Life Portrait

Flickr: Check more images in Flickr.

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