Learn how to break composition rules in photography.
Why learn the rules if we’re only going to break them?
Before we go breaking rules we need to know the rules so we can break them. It’s always a good idea to review the rules of composition every so often. Maybe we get stuck always using the rule of thirds or leading lines over and over. By reviewing the rules you’ll be reminded of other options you can use to compose your shots.
In this month’s example, I chose to break the rule of thirds. How do I do that? Center the subject instead of lining up your subject along one of the lines or at the intersection of the lines. Centering our subject is one of the easiest ways to break the rules.
What helps you decide to break a composition rule?
Keep in mind the following when composing your images, whether you’re breaking the rules or not. Do your research and prepare. Slow down and feel where you are, get a feeling for your subject and the emotion you want to convey. Decide on what orientation works best, shoot it several ways so you have options. Be deliberate in the placement of your subject. Pay attention to where your eye travels in the image. Watch where your point of focus is, make sure that is sharp. Check for other elements, are they necessary or distracting? As always, simplify.
Why should I break a rule?
You are the artist. That means you can break the rules when you want. If you feel like the image should be composed differently, commit to it and create your art. Composition rules are there as guidelines for us to use, they are not meant to be hard fast, you have to do it this way, rules.
Create what speaks to you. Maybe everything just leads to your subject in the middle. The color, lines, light and dark are all directing you, see where they lead you.
Photo BootCamp Magazine
On the following pages, find out what our BootCamp members have created by by breaking the rules and see what the results are.
And be sure to check out how you can join BootCamp at the end of the magazine!
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Alternatively if you have a slower connection you can view this magazine Here on ISSUU.
Below is a small sample of what’s in this magazine…
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Inside BootCamp Magazine
Let’s take a look at this month’s magazine. Here’s our featured artist of the month, Janette Planck, from Australia.
For her featured image, she came across the most unusual flower when in she was in Victoria. She had no idea what it is called, but it caught her eye at that time.
Comment: Ruth Lopez – “I enjoy how the colors and focal point give this photo a whimsical feel, especially knowing it is some unusual flower. It looks like a colorful land-borne shrimp to me. How fun! :)”
This month’s featured magazine cover image is from Christoph Mischke from Germany. For this shot, he took almost exactly two years ago on a nice autumn morning in a moor not far away from his hometown. No rule of thirds, no single point of interest, but he liked the light and colors.
Comment: Richard Hutson – “Christoph, love this image with the reed archiving from corner to corner holding little droplets of water … very artistic! It also shows excellent camera skills and a steady hand @ 300 mm.”
Let’s take a peek and see what our active members have created by breaking the rules.
Let’s start with Valerie Worthen from the USA. This challenge is proving to be more difficult than she had expected, especially when rules dominate the majority of the time. This is a lone tree in the middle of a grain field that has been recently harvested. Winter storms are forming and she thought the sky added to the photo. Valerie placed her subject in the middle of the scene as it allows her to showcase more of the sky.
Comment: Derryl Friesen – “Clouds so often define a scene. So much remains static on the ground, but the sky is always moving. Here is a perfect example of this truth. This same scene with a clear, cloudless, blue sky may simply look a bit dull. This is dramatic. SO much to look at.”
Next we have Sara O’Brien from the USA. According to Sara this was supposed to be cranes or an eagle, but those didn’t turn out as well as this did. The cranes went behind the bushes out in the field, too far for her lens to get good images, and the eagle, well, it just sat there, and wasn’t a very inspiring image. So as Sara was waiting for the cranes to come out from behind the bushes, and for the eagle to do something, she shot this image of the barbed wire fence in front of her. Broke the rule of thirds here. There is clearly a POI. She really liked the way this turned out. It’s very simple, but that is okay.
Comment: Christian Piron – “Dave, great picture with a scene in full action although frozen at the right moment. Good composition. Strong leading lines in the triangle woman-man-umbrella. Personally I like both versions coloured and B&W. Well done.”
Next we have Derryl Friesen from Thailand. To quote Derryl, “If what we see here on this earth is only a shadow of what is to come in heaven, I am speechless. He took Karen to a little kids fishing pond just outside of town for sunset. As they crested the little hill, she exclaimed, “Look! Swans!” As the swans migrate south, this little snowy pond is a resting place for two families. Unbelievable! Thank you Jesus for glimpses of your glory here on this troubled earth we call home. The guy in the middle is breaking all the rules, showing off and going in the opposite direction as all the rest! And he placed him smack in the middle of the frame.
Comment: Kathleen Feeley – “I like this version also, Derryl. I swear it looks like you posed these birds for the shot…how did you get them to listen!?!”
Then we have Kathy Wolfe from the USA. She was playing with color on a black background just for fun.
Comment: Romy Villanueva – “Really, really nice. Liked the black background and the floating effect. Very well done Kathy.”
And last but not least is from Romy Villanueva from the Philippines. He said in this photo of the abstract shape that resulted from water drops and splashes that there is no other alternative but to put the POI in the middle although there’s no symmetry to speak of. You don’t have to worry about placing the POI in the rule of thirds intersection for a stronger composition, in fact doing so will probably even make it less interesting. No composition rules to worry about as you could never predict what abstract shape the water droplet would give.
Comment: Kathleen Feeley – “Magical, Romy. Who knew Breaking the Rules could be as masterful as following the rules!”
So what do you think guys? Does breaking the rules give you amazing results? Why not try it on your own and don’t be afraid. You can also count on the community to help and guide you along the way. If you are not yet a member of this awesome family this is the best time to be one. You can check out the complete BootCamp Magazine and see for yourself!
- Learn the rules so you know what they are and how to break them.
- Slow down, get a feeling for the subject and what composition works best.
- You are the artist, create what speaks to you.
Did you enjoy this article? Check out these related articles, too:
- Telling a Story Through An Image Using Patterns
Using patterns to draw your viewer’s attention to you artistic images.
- Photography, Meet Simplicity
Practice minimalism to develop your artistic eye.
- Leading Viewers On A Journey Through An Image!
A creative way to use leading lines to make your images more exciting and meaningful.
Do This Now
Please leave me a comment below – I’d love to know what you think. Brent