Rules are everywhere. Wherever you go, you are under the spell of “obedience to the laws”. Consequences are waiting to both ignorant and deliberate dissenters. These rules are not a bad thing. In fact they have made our society more liveable. It brings order to the chaotic. Even in writing this article, I had to adhere to writing rules (e.g. syntax, gramar, punctuations, etc.) in order to deliver a clear message. Since rules are almost omnipresent, we can definitely find it even in the world of art; photography as an example and also the focus in this article.
Given that photography is under the category “visual art”, the rules that are applied to painting and illustration can also be applied to it. The “thirds” and “symmetry” rules have proven to be visually pleasing compositions in the field of landscape photography and other genres as well. Our great organ “the brain” through “the eyes” has an innate ability to perceive what is beautiful or unattractive by sensing how the elements and forms are arranged inside the frame. Hence, we must often if not always adhere to the rules because ordinarily, we cannot trick the mind with our lower than mediocre artistic expression. In our society, there is collective taste for aesthetics where majority of the population agree on a particular definition of beauty. Using this general consensus of beauty, you will agree if I say that Richard Gomez’s yellow penis on black canvas (artwork???) is a solid bona fide bullshit, won’t you?
Similar things happen in photography surely for this discipline is considered an art, visual art to be more specific. So, we often hear the expressions such as:
You should add a bokeh in your shot. You should have shot this at f/2.8
Bro, your image is too soft. You should have set your aperture to f/9 or f/11.
Next time shoot at low ISO. Look. Your image is too noisy.
You should have included a foreground.
Let’s go back to that place and shoot during transition. We were late for the sunrise this morning.
Always follow the rule of thirds. You’ll never go wrong with that.
And the list goes on and on. You may call them general knowledge, tips or skills whatsoever but they are followed by you and me because they are the “rules” of beauty. You’ll never go wrong applying the rules. Rules that have visual consequences if ignored. I have nothing against “following the rules”. In fact I am law-abiding-photographer. I definitely know the value of following the rules. To every photographer out there especially the neophytes, OBEYING THE RULES IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. It is your manual or handouts that you get when you open the box of your first microwave oven. But the only difference is you need to read this one and the literal manual for your new appliance is doomed to be thrown to the bin of course. Photography rules are treated the otherwise. You need to store it in your brain like how you copy and paste porn videos from your perverted friends. Rules are precious. You need to know them by heart. That’s the bare-minimum, the acceptable level, the threshold level between mediocrity and excellence.
After years of obeying the rules, layers upon layers of practice and knowledge acquisition, camera shuttercounts have reached their limits; you’ll come to realize that the rules you follow are not absolute. They are simply guidelines that you need to adhere to in order to reach the door to the peak of your creativity. You’ve reached the point of enlightenment that rules can be bent if not totally broken. And anywhere you go applying the rules has become a second nature; as easy as chewing a tendered meat; as easy as speaking your native tongue. By adhering to the rules, you have become the rule unto yourself. You can bend as you wish. You can break as you please. You are the great motherf*cker who holds Thor’s hammer swinging it left and right destroying every law. And for every rule that is shattered a masterpiece comes to a rising.
By mastering the rules who have gained the ability to rise above the conventions of the common and ordinary. You have dared to be different while everybody else drifts away like identical fallen leaves on a river being carried downstream by a quiet flow of water. You have become the first flower to blossom in the field, the very first to attract hungry bees, the very first to scatter grains of pollen and turn them into seeds.
Again, I would like to reiterate that following the rules is not a bad thing. It is not the greatest thing either. Adhering to the rules is to live a photography career generally accepted by everyone. It is a good thing and can be great as well. However, sure greatness comes when you think outside the box, when you distance yourself from established conventions, when you dare to be fresh and different.
TO BEND AND BREAK IS THE PERFECT RULE. Go outside. Find new perspectives and f*cking own them. There’s no other person responsible for your photography but yourself. I ain’t telling you how to do it. I am also on the process of figuring it out. The answer is hidden amongst the wilderness. Let’s go check it out.
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