A neighbor passed away recently. At her memorial last week I was reminded of how she always signed her emails; "There are no rules".
So what does this have to do with photography? Well, that's always been my approach to composition. Maybe there are "guidelines"(if you're familiar with the Pirates of the Caribbean), but definitely not rules. Yes, there are principles of 2D design, and those are a good thing to know and understand. But it was Edward Weston who said; "To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk."
I was recently reading a piece on the web where a photographer was giving a detailed analysis of the rules of composition. Rule of Thirds, Golden Mean, Golden Spirals, triangles, etc, etc..with circles and arrows drawn all over his images. It looked like quite a mess when he was done. Not to mention that it made no sense. Making a photograph is a creative not an analytical process.
OK, I lied, there is one rule; if it looks good, photograph it. Edward Weston also said; "Composition is the strongest way of seeing." Which is just another way of saying, trust yourself. If it looks right to you, go for it. Because at the end of the day, the most important audience for your work is you. If it doesn't please you, why would it please anyone else?
Don't worry about the "Rules". Understand the guidelines of good 2D design and then trust your instincts, or as Yoda would say; "Trust the Force, Luke." I think most people have a better innate sense of design than they realize.
It was the Dali Lama who said; "Know the rules completely so you can break them competently." You'll notice in the image above that the Rule of Thirds is very carefully ignored.
More next week.