I’ve embarked upon a Journey of Recognition. It’s the next e-course in Kat Sloma’s wonderful Find Your Eye series. Our first assignment is to think about the “rules” about photography that we follow (or don’t), and how they might be affecting our artistic expression.
I’m a great one for following rules. I like rules, because then I know exactly what’s expected of me and whether I’m living up to my own perfectionistic, people-pleasing ideals. (Yes, I know, I should take this up with my therapist. I would, if I had one.)
Anyway, here are some of the photographic rules I’ve absorbed over the years [and my current thoughts about them]:
- Always use a tripod for sharp photos. [As if.]
- Never put the horizon in the center of the photo. [I will if I want to.]
- Don’t center your subject. [Ditto.]
- Don’t let the sun shine directly into your lens to avoid sunspots and flare. [But I like sunspots and lens flare!]
- Look out for background objects “growing” out of someone’s head. [This is actually a good one. I wish I remembered it more often.]
- Be careful not to cut off the top of someone’s head. [Oh yeah.]
- Hold the camera straight and level. [I try. Hard.]
- Digital photography isn’t REAL photography. [I am so over this one.]
- A photograph should record reality. Photoshop is evil. [OK, still struggling here.]
The thing is, when I’m shooting, I forget about rules, at least consciously. I’m just trying to capture whatever it is that has caught my attention. Some of them I deliberately ignore, such as that advice about a tripod. Too heavy and cumbersome for my taste: I seldom use one. Depending on the subject, I very well may put the horizon in the middle or center the main point of interest if it feels right. I love sunspots and flares and sometimes seek to create them.
It was through seeing the work of some of my fellow students in the previous course in this series, Starting the Journey, that I first became aware of some of my rules and their restrictive influence. It doesn’t even occur to me to try photos like some of them do, framing only half of a toddler’s face, for example, or just their little feet. Or deliberately tilting the camera to a crazy angle to capture the long shadow of a chair across the floor. But I love those photos when I see them. They are imaginative in a way that I admire. I’d like to break free from unconsciously following arbitrary, conventional rules.
On the other hand . . .
. . . though there’s nothing very unconventional about it, I love this picture. The subject dead center, the brilliant orange in contrast to the soft natural surroundings, and the intensity of his concentration. (And I just realized it also breaks my personal Rule #10: I don’t do people pictures.)
I have long since fallen in love with digital photography and have even come to appreciate the benefits of post-processing with computer and software. However, I still prefer my photographs to look natural, so I seldom do much except to straighten, crop, or sharpen a bit. And I admit I have been known to carefully remove a distracting element if I could do so without its being obvious. But my conscience still whispers in my ear while I’m doing it!