View Full Version : Breaking Rules

06-25-2009, 02:51 PM
Over and over on different competition threads I see people refer to the "rules". I want to emphatically state (for about the 77th time at least:D) the only rules in print competion are the ones on the entry form. Everything else, as it refers to the 12 elements, are only suggestions. For example I will use the "rule" of thirds. Yes there is the rule of thirds - but that's just a case of know the concept, understand how and why it works and then use it or ignore it to achieve the final image you want. Ignoring it because you don't know it or understand it is not a good idea. My job as a judge is to evaluate how you choose to compose the image and does that composition add to the success of the image. My job is not to judge whether you followed the rule of thirds. I often will explain the rule of thirds or suggest it to someone who is starting out as a way to help them learn to see and understand composition, not because that's the way it has to be done. You don't teach a begining music student some experiemental piece , you start with the basics so they understand when the so called rules are broken, it's done for a reason.

My oldest son was never interested in photography as he was growing up and we never tried to encourage him to be. While in college he did a semester at Oxford University and traveled a bit around Europe. It was then that he started getting interested in photography. As he emailed images back to us from England, Holly and I were amazed at how quickly he developed an "eye" and a unique viewpoint. We had never talked about composition, design etc with him. We liked to assume it was just his being around it so long, he picked up a lot by osmosis. So flash forward a few years to now. He is getting into photography as what I'd call high end amature level, fine art kinda stuff. Recently he has been asking for my help on composition and design and I have been giving him little lessons with homework assignments. While we were talking about his composition "assignment", I reminded him of all the great images from his Europe travels and suggested he trust his gut instincts. His response was "Dad I know I just see it, but I want to understand why it works." I thought about that statement this morning and how it applies to print competition. There are no real rules, but you have to understand why things work and why they don't, so when you deviate from those rules/suggestions, you do so because it enhances the image, not just because you didn't know any better.


06-25-2009, 11:20 PM
Dang, Keith. You should consider a blog for all your wonderful posts and then linking to it so it would be "permenant" and people could refer back to it. (Or go there and just read and read :) )

Thanks for your wise words and for sharing them.

06-26-2009, 04:24 AM
Great post Keith.

When I lst got into photography I was reading about Edward Weston and he stated that there was only one rule to composition, how strongly are you seeing your subject. That has pretty much stuck with me all these years.

Best regards, Ernst