Lesson 49: The One True Rule

Coming up, we’re going to be looking at more apps and attachments and, soon I hope, I’ll be doing comparisons between the 4S and 5S.  But before we delve into more technology and gadgets, I think this is a good time to recheck on the basics.

First, let’s remember the very first lesson:  There are no rules.  I would like to amend this.  In fact, there is one true rule of photography.  That rule is that you must break all the rules if you want to take better pictures.  However, it only counts if you know you broke them.   The amazing thing that you will find (if you have not already) is that breaking a rule with purpose (even if you don’t realize it until after you’ve taken the shot) rather than out of ignorance results in a whole new level of discovery.

Sometimes, we have happy accidents.  If you ever watched “The Joy of Painting” with the ever-optimistic Bob Ross, you may recall Bob explaining that unexpected splatters of paint were really just “happy accidents” that ultimately resulted in a more interesting painting.

In photography, happy accidents are the moments when you just happen to get something amazing without really working at it too hard.  Sometimes, for example, we take a shot and something flies into the frame at just the right moment.  Sometimes we frame a subject because we like the way it looks without noticing there’s something in the frame that turns out to be the thing that makes the photo great.

Much more often, at least for me, happy accidents come in the form of imagining what we want to get, getting all setup, and then discovering that you can’t possibly get what you imagined because the background won’t work, the light isn’t right, the proportions of the things you’re shooting are different than you remembered, or some other thing that looked completely different in your mind than it does in reality and you come home with a completely different set of images than you imagined.

If you’re not imagining the images you want to create and then going out to shoot, well, don’t worry.  Most people don’t.  Most people think about their iPhone as a handy camera to pull out when an opportunity presents itself.  The thing is, not too many people get better at taking pictures that way.  Just as Bob Ross thought anyone could become a talented artist, he also thought it would take an investment of time and intention.  The same is true for photographs.  After all, good photos don’t grow on trees–not even happy little ones.  The more photos you take, the more likely you are to capture something really cool.  Even better, the more likely you are to recognize it.

Your Assignment:  I’ve placed some photos into the gallery for this post.  Can you identify which “rules” I broke in each example?  Decide if the photo works for you–do you like it?  If not, can you figure out what bothers you about it?