At the time of writing this, 2020 has just started and it is at this time of the year where a lot of us reflect on the past 12 months. We question what good has come out of it and what could we have done better. For a while, we sense a wave elation as in the new year, we know we can put wrong to right. Resolutions maybe short lived but if we remain disciplined, who knows can be achieved.
Landscape photography for me is a constant evolution of creativity. What I’ve found worked back then does not necessarily work now. Why is that though? Is it because we discover that certain images haven’t followed certain rules? I find that as my experience in this art I love grows, I have become more creative and my images don’t always follow a given rule.
I posted a vlog in November 2019 named ‘Is there a right or wrong?’ and in that I discussed if by abiding by certain composition rules, will it make us better landscape photographers. The discussion originated from a post on Twitter from Greg Whitton, a landscape photographer I hold a great level of respect for and I find inspiration from. It stemmed from Greg’s thoughts with regards to YouTube vloggers posting videos on tips to improve landscape photography. A couple of Gregs comments as follows;
‘The point was that a certain type of photo that follows certain ‘rules’ of aesthetics will generally be favoured by the majority, but that doesn’t necessary mean anything else is lesser, in an art sense, it’s just different’
‘The problem with tips is that they betray the art in many ways. They are one persons view of what is right and what is wrong…but in art, there is no wrong. Tips are ok, but they should come with a caveat’
Since I posted the video, I received a number of comments with some interesting points of view and replies. I will add my thoughts at the end but in the mean time I thought it interesting to post a few;
- Learning the basics, the rules, then gives you the opportunity to know that you’re breaking them if you so wish 🙂 – Re:Photography (aka Gary Norman)
- I agree that people need to know the basics of photography but if they are constantly getting good images and improving all the time, who is to say they are doing anything wrong. The growth of a medium has always come from shifting the goalposts. That’s not always because people break the rules but often because they don’t know the rules in the first place. – Steve Mellor photo vlogger
- When we are first starting out following some basic principles can help us to produce more pleasing images which helps to build our confidence. Eventually this confidence will allow us to experiment, to try new things, even to break the rules, all of which help us to grow as photographers. Inevitably there will be times when our confidence takes a knock. When this happens returning to the rules can help to restore our confidence and the cycle starts all over again. – Chris Sale
- I trust my eye to attract me to a subject, and my instincts to compose. When it feels right I take the image. I never think of rules or analyze my compositions. – Curtis Miller
- I think photos can be sort of objectively assessed based on (a) is the subject interesting, (b) does the composition enhance the subject/tell an interesting story to make the overall image pleasing to the eye (c) is the light helpful or distracting (d) is the technique used helpful or distracting (e) does the processing enhance the image. So this framework goes beyond rules as such. – Warren Swales
- The most beautiful images usually have a degree of simplicity and order and whether we like them or not, the rules give us that! The photographers who say they don’t use them are usually experienced photographer who aren’t aware that they are using them anymore. – Simon Booth
- I think that rules should form the base to your photography but should not stifle your photography. – Quaker521
I echo a lot of what has been said. Rules form a good foundation which as creators of landscape photography are followed, whether if some disagree or not. There is a reason for example the rule of thirds is considered to produce a pleasing image. It stems back to a centuries old tradition and it works. It’s as simple as that. We are creative people however and I feel it is very important to not allow our skills to be restricted. Individuality is key. Not every element in a frame has to be in focus, Shadows do not have to have detail in them to be seen, Good photography can be achieved other than during golden hour times. The most important point to consider is that we are free to take what we like and if that shot presents a warm feeling of euphoria then it has worked.