View Full Version : RULES
02-01-2005, 05:27 AM
why do people believe in "rules of photography" ??
personally i think that these "rules" are what keep most of us from evolving into better photographers
i think it's ok to have certain guidelines (not strict rules)when you are a beginner, but on a lot of ocassions i've felt that a lot of people keep these rules close to their hearts throughout their lives/ photographic lives. one of those rules is the "rules of thirds"
isn't that narrowing down on perspective to a great extent?
or is it just that photography is treated like a chemistry experiment in which you HAVE to add acid into water and not water into acid?
02-01-2005, 06:31 AM
This is a tricky one. First of all, I believe any good photographer will have a good grasp of the rules and will use them effectively. I believe one of the problems is that many photographers (myself included) tend to not know all the rules. The rule of thirds is easy and quite easily explained, it is the one that is most easily applied. However, there are times when another rule supercedes the rule of thirds, thus making for a better photograph. Sometimes these rule may be understood, such as leading lines, repeated shapes or colors, complementary colors, or something else. I think it is also quite possible that at times these rules are not understood, but that doesn't mean they are not working in our mind. The better the photographer, the bette he/she will know the rules and know when to apply a certain rule.
My belief is that human perception is very mathemetical at its core. Our brain processes our experiences in a certain way. Those things follow the rules appropriately will give satisfaction; those that don't will give dissatisfaction. I know the artists in the group will cringe, but I do think most art is mathematically derived. This is why Beethoven was able to compose symphonies while deaf. I think it is also why such disparate genres of music as classical and heavy metal use very similar chord progressions (I am no musician, but a professional musician friend explained this to me) and deliver pleasing results to very different listeners. It is also why rules that were first understood during the Rennaissance still work today. I believe that there are many more rules that we may not understand, but once we do, it will probably explain why photos that don't seem to follow the rules still look good to us.
This being said, I do understand and appreciate what you are saying by people being crippled by rules. Too many really only understand the rule of thirds, so they follow it slavishly, when certain circumstances call for another rule to be followed. The best photographers know when to use which rule, even if they might not do so consciously.
Hope this makes sense, I am a little sleepy.
02-01-2005, 06:41 AM
I agree with Darren. Generally speaking the "rules" are "rules" because they are generally true. The mathematical aspect of art has been a part of Western civilization for at least as long as the Greeks.
That said, I agree that for many it's a crutch: Photo's HAVE to follow the Rule of Thirds, etc... That annoyed me alot about this site way back in the beginning, but you gotta realise that for alot of people here photography is a mild amusement, a little hobby. They aren't looking to create "cutting edge" images, they're looking for nice post-cardy shots they can be proud to show family and friends. And there's nothing wrong with that eh?
ps if it helps any my recent couple shots are a little un-ruley, and they ain't too popular either! ;)
02-01-2005, 02:06 PM
Lets face it - rules are for amateurs. (I speak as a someone who has spent their life trying to understand music - I am a novice at photography).
Take the rule of thirds - what is that, some kind of gross generalization, which is also untrue (look at the number of photos that display rule of thirds perfectly, which are also rubbish). What kind of a rule is it that can be overturned when another rule overrules it ( ie symmetry = good).
When starting out in an artistic disicipline, any ideas that can help us think about content will help, as we are floundering around in the dark. A master, however, will know exactly how far to bend and break these 'rules' every time. Indeed this process is necessary for art to develop.
These 'rules' do illustrate a few interesting problems, that is, as photographers (musicians) in order to do our thing we have to be able to evaluate quality from non quality, so we can recognise it in our own work and others. The illusion of Rules make this easy - ie good work follows the rules, and bad doesn't, but any glimpse at a master will surely result in the realisation that this isnt true - Bach, for instance, broke every so called rule of harmony, but, at the same, he time he created the standard set of rules which the mere mortals who followed emulated.
In the absence of 'real 'rules' the evaluation between good and bad is very tricky. In what aspect of the work does the quality lie? My personal (worrying) view is that the quality of a piece of art does not reside in the work itself, rather in the relationship between the artist and the person experiencing the art - the experiencer is active and necessary, and without him the art does not even exist. More than this is hard to say, but is certainly worth great thought.
02-01-2005, 03:05 PM
a very interesting post
if you notice i mentioned the term "guidelines" which i find somewhat complementing your views, although you might not feel the same.
i'm quite interested to know the origin of the so called "rules" for example the rule of thirds. where did it originate? is there a syllabus on photography that mentions certain rules that must be followed?
quote by raghu rai on henri cartier bresson's demise
"At that time photography meant taking pictures which would look like paintings. Henri took a 35 mm camera and started taking pictures which were lively, vibrant and reflected the mood of the people he captured".
you can read more <a href="http://specials.rediff.com/news/2004/aug/08sld1.htm">here</a> if you're interested (LUKO- if you're reading this, then goto the link. on one of the pages that you'll come across , there is a photograph of a bresson exhibition and there is a photograph of one of your favourite bressons on display :))
ok now at the risk of generalising, only to explain myself( i might be wrong, but anyway..)
is it possible that in henri's younger days , there was a "rule" on how to go about taking photographs- formal ones. is it possible that bresson didn't really believe in rules, like most of us do?
what i'm basically trying to say is that doesn't anybody want to in a way reinvent the medium of photography ? contribute something new, like what bresson did. maybe not all of us are as gifted as he was, but aren't we atleast interested in seeing something new being contributed?
following this i must use one of bboss's quotes:
"A master, however, will know exactly how far to bend and break these 'rules' every time"
absolutely true in my opinion.
but is it possible that a lot of us first see whether the photograph follows the certain rules, and then try and understand the photograph ( which is why i think that maybe we believe in rules a little too much)
is there a way that we can first try and understand the photograph and if we can't then use the "rules" as certain guidelines only to help us understand the photograph??
the reason why i posted this is because i feel that a lot of us spend so much time in trying to figure out whether the photograph conforms to certain rules, that we sometimes forget about trying to understand the feel of the photograph. i hope i'm not sounding too philosophical or anything now :)
this is from a viewer's perspective since i understood from david that " maybe not all of us manage to break the "rules" and still be coherent in our perspective.
i might be wrong, that's why i posted this message
also i apologise if i myself am not sounding too clear on this. i'm trying hard to express myself here, but i hope that if this forum gets more participation maybe some sense can be made out of it.
i've to go study now :(
Take a look at this site...www.nonphotography.com
OOPS, sorry I didnt add it in html.
Anyhow, I hate rules. I love this site!
02-01-2005, 03:39 PM
hi cathe thank you so much for making me realise that a big part of me is a non photographer as well :)
that looks like a great site.
here are some accomplished <a href="http://www.agencevu.com/fr/photographes/">non photographers</a> for you
actually that link that you gave has answered a lot of my questions and also kind of explains what i was trying to say in a much more organised manner :)
02-01-2005, 03:48 PM
It is my understanding that the 'rule of thirds' is derived from the golden mean/golden proportion/golden sectionsection/ the golden ratio = 1.61803399, which has been around a lot longer than photography. The greeks used it in archetecture etc.
see this link for info
Its interesting theory, but I am very sceptical of such things. It is doubtless that it has influenced many great artists for thousands of years.
Sohrab, you say 'i understood from david that " maybe not all of us manage to break the "rules" and still be coherent in our perspective.',
but thats not what I meant at all. Coherence and perspective (or meaning, if you prefer) do not exist except in the eye of the beholder, in my opinion, so that means they cannot exist in a photo or in any other work of art.They can only exist in the relationship between the viewer and the viewed.
What you may perceive as incoherence may well be understood in a hundred years as perfectly coherent, and this is frequent in the art world, when an artist is well before his time. Just imagine what Bach would have made of free jazz!!
You are quite welcome! I frequent Nitsa's site and love this type of work. I too am something of a "Non Photographer"!
02-01-2005, 04:10 PM
I think that there is so much more to art than "rules" although they are useful to know, particularly (and I think this is the crucial point) if one is not attuned to one's artistic instincts. I mean, when i photograph, I do it very intuitively. I look for a composition I like and capture it. But I have spent much of my life being surrounded by a wide variety of artistic influences and so have a broad appreciation for what constitutes art.
This is sounding snobby and I'm sorry about that but I will press on.
However I think a lot of people are new to looking at art, new to composing art (and just to diffuse that snobbery, let me say THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT), and for many of them the rules are important because rules give them something to rely on. The rules are like training wheels. Then, after a while, your eye gets bored of these "ruled" type of compositions and you want to be challenged. Not all challenging art appeals to all people but I think that people who fall in love with an ideosyncratic piece of art (one that breaks the rules) feel more passionate about it because its oddness is speaking to them directly.
02-01-2005, 04:24 PM
ok you're right about this.. but do you think this applies to all kinds of photograph???
for example .. ummm photojournalism.
do you think in this case... there is a chance that the photojournalist has to be a little coherent in what he's capturing?? maybe the viewer can try and look for more meanings beyond what the photographer is showing clearly??
for example have a look at <a href="http://www.magnumphotos.com/c/htm/CDocZ_MAG.aspx?Stat=DocThumb_DocZoom&o=&DT=ALB&E=2K7O3RBQ95I8&Pass=&Total=63&Pic=1&SubE=2S5RYD126027" target="_blank">this</a> photograph ( this example may not be the best, so sorry about it)
the photographer is clearly showing us a scene with different elements in it. although he doesn't seem to have followed the rules of thirds or any other that i can think of ( there are none other actually :))
now it's is upto the viewer to look beyond what he/she sees at first sight and make his/her own interpretations. someone might have his/her own interpretation of the towers far off in the horizon.
what i'm trying to say is a photographer always puts you on the ladder. if it's an art photographer, let us assume that he's putting you the first rung of the ladder.. that is if you find the photograph just absolutely incoherent , then you remain on the first run, but if you look beyond and find the most incoherent work coherent and are able to make some sense out of it in your own way, then you climb up some of the rungs yourself.
take for example <a href"http://www.agencevu.com/fr/photographes/default.asp?Photographes=1">michael ackerman</a>
he's placing you on the first rung by showing you his perspective. now it depends on you how much of the ladder you're able to climb
on the other hand look at rai. in the photograph in the link, let us say he's placed you on the 5th rung (hypothetically speaking) since he's more coherent in the scene that he's depecting and it is perhaps easier for you to climb the ladder for rai than for ackerman.
although rai seems more coherent to me than ackerman ( in my opinion) , neither of them seem to have applied any rule in a clear way. some people might be able able to interpret rai's photographs better than others.
so this is what i meant by what i said.
i hope i've not ended up confusing anyone with my analogies :)
i better stop now before i confuse myself and i seem to be getting close to the state of being confused :)
02-01-2005, 04:35 PM
oh yeah i forgot to mention...
i know about the fibonacci series..
but when was photography subjected strictly to the fibonacci series.
i mean when was the rule established saying "photography must be subjected to the rule of thirds or the fibonacci series?"
hi lisan i'm not being snobbish about this myself, nor am i saying that sticking to the rules is wrong, but i'm just trying to find out why is it that people ALWAYS stick to the "rules"?
ok you're right when you say "The rules are like training wheels"
but do we need these training wheels forever?
to everyone : i hope i'm not misunderstood here, i'm not trying to be snobbish or anything.. these questions have been eating me up for along time and i just wanted other's opinions on this
i have an exam in 2 days. i promise to start another ( maybe controversial) thread after that exam. toooooooo many questions in my head :)
02-02-2005, 06:18 PM
I agree with BBoss completely.I may also add that it may have been called "rules" but it is really "guidelines". There is also the Triangulation "rule" or guide. These guides are not just for photographers, it is also used by architects and painters. Photographers I read about who use these guidelines are Avedon, Bret Stern and Alexey Brodovitch. For painters, Johanne Vermeer used it in all his paintings. Since it is guideline, you can deviate from it. It is how you use the space within your canvas.
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