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“The best way out is always through.”

Monday, February 9, 2009

Break the Composition Rules

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, there are a lot of "rules" when it comes to composing images and often those rules are useful in creating strong photographs. But those rules are better described as guidelines and there's no need for slavish devotion to them. In fact, often breaking the rules and putting convention aside is the right thing to do. The tricky bit is knowing when to do it.

How do you know when it's right? When it feels right. In shooting this photograph of my girlfriend in Monument Valley, for example, I decided to break one of the cardinal rules of composition that says your main subject should never be dead center in the frame. The reasoning behind this is that centering a subject creates a very stagnant design. At the moment I shot this frame, however, she was engulfed by this incredible environment and it seemed putting her in the middle of the frame--both horizontally (the center of the frame runs right through her waist) and vertically (she divides the frame in half side-to-side)--was exactly the right thing to do. It felt not only natural but symbolic to have her in the center. This has always been one of my favorite shots of her and of Monument Valley.

If you've read a lot of composition rules in photo books (even mine!) and you're feeling restricted, feel free to toss the rules away. Soon enough you'll find out that the only design rules that matter are the ones that work.

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