Composition – the only ‘rule’ you should obey!   Leave a comment

As photographers we should always be wary of ‘rules’ when associated with our creativity. We already have so many to remember after all. Like the ‘rule of thirds’, ‘negative space’, ‘rule of odds’  and ‘leading lines’ and so forth.

Puffin Farne Isles_20150621_1010

Whilst these aids to composition can really help us with our photography, they can get in the way of our creativity. They can sometimes become a labourious mental checklist that we feel obliged to review with each exposure. Where’s the fun in that?

But here is one ‘rule’ that I’ve always found helpful to my students:

‘Make sure that when somebody looks at your image they know exactly what YOU want them to look at!’

There it is! The only rule I’d recommend that you ‘obey’.

There is another way of expressing this rule; ask yourself the question; ‘is this a picture of a duck on a lake or a picture of a lake with a duck in it’? What’s the difference? I here you cry.

Well, here’s a picture of a lake with a duck in it….

Trees and lake


… and here is a picture of a duck on a lake.

Mandarin Duck

In the first picture the imaginary viewer of our image wouldn’t really know where to look first. It’s a lake with  … some trees … and sky…..and… oh yes, there’s a duck… a very small duck.

In the second picture the duck dominates the image…. looking at the duck first is unavoidable. There is really nothing else for the viewer to look at.

What you are looking to create is an image where your subject matter, whether that’s a duck, a dog, a person or a vintage car, is ‘filling’ the frame. When you do this you are devoting most of those lovely megapixels that your camera has to the thing you want people to look at…your subject! 

So when you next look through the viewfinder make sure that your chosen subject dominates your picture and leaves the viewer in no doubt about what they should be looking at! Make it BIG in your picture.

Next time – making it ‘BIG’! How to do just that.

Best wishes



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