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'Rules of photography' - a budding anthology

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by Monobod, May 14, 2007.

  1. Monobod

    Monobod Phantom of the forum

    We are all familiar with the notion that there are 'Rules' to photography, but I am sure that most of us only know some of them. Also, possibly, we may not fully understand those that we do know.

    There is the famous 'rule of thirds' but should the subject of the shot fall centrally on the line dividing the image into three, or should it be centred on the area that is one third of the frame wide (or high).

    Perhaps this post could be used by us all to build a library of these rules, with a short explaination of what they mean (if needed). Besides being helpful to potential mewcomers to the hobby, it will serve to remind us of the ones we have forgotten. Some may only apply to film, others to digital, many to both.

    I will kick of with this one:

    Rule 1.

    The sunny 16 rule:

    When shooting front lit subjects on sunny days, set the aperture to f/16 and your shutter speed to the nearest corresponding number to your film's ISO rating

    Does it work and what is your favourite 'rule'?
  2. Fen

    Fen The Destroyer

    I don't know if I have a favourite rule, but here's one to add to the list.

    Rule 2
    The number of Objects in a photo should be an Odd Number.
  3. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    The rule I like best is "Rules are guidelines only, and definitely not compulsory".
  4. Monobod

    Monobod Phantom of the forum


    Not disputed, but do you know of one to add to the list. :) Please be positive.
  5. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    Drummed into me at an early age:-

    "Expose for the highlights, process for the shadows."

    I guess it still 'sort-of' applies in digital:-

    "Expose for the highlights, Photoshop for the shadows." :rolleyes:
  6. TimF

    TimF With as stony a stare as ever Lord Reith could hav

    I think that is being positive. If you become fixated on "rules" then maybe your work will become stilted. Far better to study the work of photographers you admire, and perhaps borrow an element of A's style, and of B's style, and then develop your own style.

    Almost all commentators, for example, will say that you should never place the horizon half way up the frame, but in the right circumstances it can work well. Again, people will say you should avoid placing your subject dead centre, but again, in some cases it can be a source of strength to your photograph.

    One example in this week's magazine. Garry McNamara took a reader's photo of the Gherkin in London where he suggested that the bottom half was too dark. I disagree with that - by lightening the street level buildings you lose the contrast between light and darkness which is such a feature of old masters paintings. The darkness can also play a symbolic role in the picture, suggesting the street level is earthbound, static (and perhaps hidebound), whilst the tower itself symbolises the vibrant, airy and new. Even the way the pale sky allows the frame to extend beyond its boundaries is part of that, and by darkening the sky to close the frame off is similar in its negative impact IMVHO.
  7. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Rule 3
    Enjoy your photography

    Rule 3a
    If you like your work, don't get upset when others don't
  8. Lounge Lizard

    Lounge Lizard Well-Known Member

    The Robert Cappa Rule

    As Robert Cappa said, 'If your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough'.
  9. Zou

    Zou Well-Known Member

    Re: The Robert Cappa Rule

    When considering a new ultra wide angle lens, also consider taking a few paces backwards when shooting.

    (Disclaimer - doesn't always work for mountaineering shots)
  10. Lounge Lizard

    Lounge Lizard Well-Known Member

    Wide Angle Lenses

    For an ultra wide angle lens that you might spend a fortune on and use only occasionally, consider, instead, taking two images with a lens you already have and stitching them together.
  11. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    Hope this is not too basic:

    In portraits always focus on the nearest eye
  12. daft_biker

    daft_biker Action Man!

    In action pics there should generally be more space in front of the action than behind it....just a guidline rather than a rule ;) Central subjects can work well too.
  13. Nod

    Nod Well-Known Member

    Make sure that if your camera is battery dependant you carry spares. (AND that they're new/fully charged...)

    If shooting action, change memory card/film/battery in a break rather than wait for a brief lull in the action.

    Take only photos, leave only footprints.
  14. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Remember Murphy.

    If something can go wrong sooner or later it will go wrong.
  15. Fen

    Fen The Destroyer

    Most important rule:

    Don't forget to take the lens cap off!
  16. adetri

    adetri Well-Known Member

    My rule is:

    When shooting in low light, hand-held, use continuous shooting for at least 4 shots at a time - you might just get a sharp one out of them (usually number 3 for some reason!)
  17. Monobod

    Monobod Phantom of the forum

    I do not disagree with this and I do not think that rules should be followed without thought and judgement intervening. Perhaps I have not made my point clear enough for which I apologise. I am simply trying to get a definition of those 'guidelines' that we all grew up with, so that we can all (or at least I can) be clear on what is meant when, for instance, someone comments that someone has followed the 'rule of thirds'. Or someone else says 'My battery went flat in the light meter, so I used the 'sunny 16' rule. Do you see where I am coming from?

    These throw away lines can be common useage to most but may be daunting to someone new to photography. You, in the great 'out there' must have something to contribute to this idea. :)

    Perhaps someone could define the 'rule of thirds' for example.
  18. ermintrude

    ermintrude Hinkypuff

    My rule is: Dont forget to take your compact with you everywhere you go. :)
  19. Lounge Lizard

    Lounge Lizard Well-Known Member

    Yes, far more important you do that than get dressed. ;)
  20. Nod

    Nod Well-Known Member

    But I would look silly if I stopped to powder my nose.

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