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"Rules, Shmules Who Needs Them?"

Updated: Jul 9, 2023


Scene from Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

It was Ansel Adams who said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”


Compositional rules in landscape photography, such as the rule of thirds, leading lines, and symmetry, are guidelines that are commonly used to create aesthetically pleasing and well-balanced images. They can help photographers create visually engaging compositions and direct the viewer's attention within the frame. However, like any rule in art, these compositional guidelines are not set in stone and can be intentionally broken or deviated from to achieve specific creative effects.


While it's important for photographers, especially beginners, to understand and practice these compositional rules to develop their skills, it's equally important to recognize that breaking these rules can lead to unique and compelling photographs. Experimenting with composition and pushing the boundaries of traditional guidelines can result in innovative and eye-catching images that stand out from the norm.

When intentionally breaking compositional rules, it's crucial to have a clear intention or vision in mind. Understanding why you're deviating from the rules and what effect you want to achieve can help you create a deliberate and impactful photograph. Breaking compositional rules can create a sense of tension, evoke emotions, convey a specific message, or challenge the viewer's expectations.

Ultimately, the decision to adhere to or break compositional rules in landscape photography is a creative choice that depends on the photographer's vision and the story they want to tell. It's important to be aware of these rules, master them, and then use that knowledge to make informed decisions about when to follow them and when to break them to achieve the desired artistic result.


“A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.” ~Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

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