In photography there are guidelines, but not rules. So, it is not a field where you can break the rules. Besides, only criminals, uneducated, mad, and stupid break the rules. Smart people either bend them or come up with new rules that work better than the former ones.
I am not going to go over the guidelines. There are many and they wouldn’t fit in this small section and contradicts the spirit of this site. Good composition requires long and intense education and study; and short cuts don’t lead you anywhere, unless you are a hobbiest or a soccer mom. Instead, I am going to mention a few things that might create some spark while taking or making pictures.
More on Composition
Composition is one of the sections of the visual language. One cannot apply any guideline as it pleases him. As we see in social media, most people do, and unfortunately they become popular, like slang of a language. A good composition is a visual poetry created by someone who is able to speak its language. Masters’ work or cinematography of the award winning directors or DPs are good examples for that.
The small tip I am going to mention is: creating a correspondence between the story/message/emotion and the visual composition. A good composition is a lacework, in that everything supports each other pointing towards the same direction (colours, shadows, directionality of the light/s, leading lines, sacred geometry, angle of view, etc.) to say one thing, same thing.
The biggest mistake some do is that they memorize the guidelines and make rules out of them: this means that. Creative sense making requires something different and more than this. As another mistake is that some apply the guidelines with no consideration. As an example: someone who has learnt ‘the rule of thirds’ (what a blunt name) places all the faces of the subjects mathematically or as where he sees the lines inside camera’s viewfinder in all his pictures without knowing why? It is like putting ketchup into everything because someone told you that ketchup is good for you and/or because you like its taste.
In a good composition everything works based on the principle of Gestalt Theory. And, every composition must be planned/done uniquely to reveal the context, to indicate towards the unseen, underlying intention, to hint a message or evoke an emotion—avoiding all contradictive, unnecessary, unaware, random (if it is not intentional) elements. You can think of a symphony orchestra. If one instrument is not accorded or plays a wrong note it kills the entire piece.
Unlike the common sense and despite the easy access granted by technology, art and creative fields are more complex and deeper than they seem. It requires years of education and practice. Unfortunately, social media spreads out tremendous amount of bad and misleading work out there that legitimate their existence by the likes of uneducated people. Quality looses the war against the quantity. Superficial emotions (likes) defeat the heritage of human intelligence and creativity.
Tips by Oz John Tekson
Again, if you are a hobbyist or a soccer mom, I have no word to say to you. But if you are serious please don’t rush, take your time, not the short cuts, and learn more, get educated (not just technically), expand your area of interests, understand and digest what you’ve learnt, don’t follow the flock and enchanted by the popularity promises of the trends, and on top of everything learn how to use your brain proactively.
And, that is my tip.