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Thread: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

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    Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    If you had to think of the majority of the photos you take, which rule of composition would you say you find yourself using the most? In other words, which compositional rule is the hardest to break for you and why?

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    Murat I like the way you have phrased your question. I thought I might wriggle out of it by saying I don't obey the rules. So for the last part of your question it means I do not find it hard to break any of them.

    I do not consciously follow any rule it just has to look right, have the emphasize where I want it and not look unbalanced. However I am sure if I were to analyse my photographs they would only be symmetrical if it was a very deliberate choice and most of the others would tend towards the rule of thirds but it would depend on the ratio of the photograph and the size(dominance) and location of the counter balancing elements.
    Last edited by pnodrog; 15th August 2013 at 09:47 AM.

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    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    I tend to stick to the rule of thirds a little too much...

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    The most important rule for me is that when I want the photo to tell a story, which is almost all of the time, I make sure the composition makes that happen. I suppose it could be argued that I shouldn't try so hard so often to tell a story.

    Secondarily, another rule is to fill the frame reasonably well with the subject. I like tight crops so much that I probably do that to a fault.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 15th August 2013 at 12:17 PM.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    I tend to be with Phil on this one too. Fortunately, I tend to work the scene when I shoot, so I degenerate from the rule of thirds after the first shot or two.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    The one rule that I honor most by its breech is to look at the rest of the photo before snapping the shutter. I tend to be too caught up in the subject when I shoot, and regret the other aspects that I should have paid attention to when composing the shot when I'm looking at a full-screen version of the photo on my computer.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    Those "Rules", generally, are there to instruct newbes regarding composition and if you're in that category...follow them.

    Eventually, as you grow in this hobby, you'll learn things about "eye travel over an image". As an example...
    we in the western world read and write from left to right, hence our eyes travel in that direction over an image.
    To that end, my "Birds in Flight" images are facing toward the right, water is flowing towards the right, and so forth.
    Multiple subjects in an image...try to stick with odd numbers. It's the little things that can be important.

    My total lack of compositional skills has caused me to forgo all use of a wide angle lens, now I use only a 180 macro or 300 f/2.8.
    I use them to take multiple images of a scene, photo-merge them, then crop/compose on my monitor. That's just my way.

    Go beyond those "rules"...providing there's a reason for doing so.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    In response to another thread about compositional rules pertaining to formal portraiture, I posted a link to some of Yousef Karsh's best know works as an example on how he continuously broke the rules and came away with stunning, provocative images. I almost suggested that we work through the images and list the rules that he broke in each image....

    I think that part of our problem is that in many (western?) societies we have been taught that if we follow the rules, we will become competent at the activities, whether that be cooking, project management or photograhy. The concept of using a cookbook approach has spread far from these fields and everyone tries to follow this approach; look at the way that Hollywood produces movies and automobile manufacturers have set up their processes from design through production (now all variants of the Toyota Production System).

    The upside is that following the cookbook approach with give us consistent "good" results, but generally not great results. Breaking the rules (i.e. not following the cookbook formula) is going to result in disaster by the amateur or merely competent professional, but if that approach is followed by someone who knows what he or she is doing; the rest of us sit there in wonder, trying to figure out where the stunning result came from, in spite of the rules not being followed.

    Here is the link to Karsh's works.

    http://121clicks.com/inspirations/th...y-yousuf-karsh


    By the way; I have had this conversation with professional photographers, chefs and project managers. The bottom line for these professionals is that following the cookbox will end up with "good" results; but taking risks by breaking the rules will mean lost of income or lost jobs, should something go wrong.

    Just a couple of comment's on Karsh's work. All of his early stuff was done with hot lights. When he lit a subject, he often lit the subjects hands as well as their face. All (most?) of his work was done with a 8 x 10 view camera; so a lot of what we see in his work is what was accomplished by two other anonymous members of his team; his negative retoucher and his printer. PP was an important part of his workflow, albeit without the help of Adobe.
    Last edited by Manfred M; 15th August 2013 at 02:11 PM. Reason: Added last paragraph

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    Quote Originally Posted by dubaiphil View Post
    I tend to stick to the rule of thirds a little too much...
    Guess what? It works....

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    I have to force myself to follow rule of thirds.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    There are rules?

    I am aware of the rule of thirds and a golden something, and I've been told/read about some other stuff, but I try to forget.

    I strongly suspect that if I were to analyse the images I produce for myself then the most aesthetically pleasing probably do conform to some rule or other, though I can't say I've ever consciously considered compositional rules when I take a shot, though what's going on subconsciously is another matter altogether. If the composition looks good in the VF then I'll hit the shutter. I do tend to leave a bit of wiggle room for a compositional crop in PP or as a safety margin if it's a fast moving subject. Obviously if it's a shot that's staged or can be easily recreated I'll get in tight and work the angles and framing but again I don't consciously think about the rules.

    When it comes to working with clients and their choices then all the rules go out of the window, largely because they don't know what the rules are either, so I'm not going to sweat it too much

    Cheers,
    A

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    The Rule of Thirds is always hovering in my mind as I'm composing a shot, I also rather like strong lead-in lines but I have a particular love of very central symmetrical shots that can jar with other photographers who feel that placing the subject in the middle is an amateur mistake.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    The Rule of Thirds is always hovering in my mind as I'm composing a shot, I also rather like strong lead-in lines but I have a particular love of very central symmetrical shots that can jar with other photographers who feel that placing the subject in the middle is an amateur mistake.
    I agree with you in all of that, Robin, and I am prepared to ignore whatever are the rules, trends, cliches, etc, and those who pontificate about them, if I like the result.

    Philip

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    The rules of visual arts (as I understand it) are based on the observations/understanding of human visual perception. The only two rules that I recall are the rule of thirds and avoiding splitting the frame with the line of the horizon. Yet over time I became a rule follower in my ignorance. A while back I bought an ebook on Gestalt perceptions and was shocked at how many of the techniques/rules I use. Whether due to random reading over the years, feedback in forums like this, or simply following my natural perceptions I have no idea. But more often than not I seem to comply.

    On the other hand, there are things that drive people away from the rules and/or their natural inclinations. Having the focus point in the middle of the frame drives casual photographers to break the rule of thirds and the split horizon nearly every time I say casual photographers because I'd be willing to bet that over half of DSL owners aren't even aware that the focus point can be moved off center.

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    tbob's Avatar
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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    Mental checklist: 1) extraneous weird things poking in or being irritating as elements, 2) not centred main subject and 3) rule of thirds. I am quite at peace chucking out 2 and 3 if necessity dictates. Most of what I shoot is stationary so I have time to mull over composition.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    There's quite a good "top 10" rules article here . .

    http://www.photographymad.com/pages/...position-rules

    Manfred, that Karsch link was something else!

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    If I have a horizon, or an implied horizon, within the image; I like it level. However, if I tilt the horizon (a rare occurrence for me) I like it definitely tilted, rather than just slightly off.

    I dislike things, like trees or posts, growing from the subject's head or strange objects or portions of people intruding from the sides of the frame.

    And I really don't like the "sun flare" portraits that are so popular today.

    I probably unconsciously follow bunches and bunches of rules and suggestions which, in the aggregate, are the basis of good composition...

    I don't actually "think" about these rules/suggestions; they sort of come along naturally. As an example, I am sure that I have seen gazillions upon gazillions of images that abide by the the "Rule of Thirds" and don't think when looking at one, "By golly, that is an example of the rule of thirds!" However, when I see that rule flaunted, I think to myself, "Does that work?" Sometimes it does and often it doesn't!
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 16th August 2013 at 08:42 PM.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    The only rule I apply with composition is to not point my camera at something as if I were pointing a gun to hit a bullseye. My personal approach to composition is to eliminate as many unneeded objects from the scene to give the simplest and strongest composition. A viewer will only spend a few seconds looking at your image and if there are too many things going on the image you will not hold their attention for long.

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    Quote Originally Posted by batmura View Post
    If you had to think of the majority of the photos you take, which rule of composition would you say you find yourself using the most? In other words, which compositional rule is the hardest to break for you and why?
    None, never have never will, I take photographs, sports etc, don't have time to worry about what looks good.

    There really is only one rule, if you like it that is all that matters

  20. #20

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    Re: Which rules of composition do you use the most?

    One of the most important rules I like is leaving space to the front of the subject's face. Like with an animal or a flower, or even a clock. Space for the subject to look into and/or move into.

    Manfred - thanks for that link to Karsh's portraits. I am a non-portrait person - I don't take them and I don't usually care to look at them. But those are really fantastic! I'll be sharing that link...

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