I remember when I first met Kristina she was looking for a fellow photographer who liked breaking the rules. My reaction at the time was confusion, because I didn’t know what those rules were. Recently I came across a list of basic photography ‘rules’ and I was pleasantly surprised. Both by what the rules are and were I fell on the spectrum of rule breakers.

The Rules
  1. Focus on the center of interest.
  2. Fill in the frame with the subject.
  3. Do not shoot between 10 AM and 3 PM. (The light is too harsh.)
  4. Do not shoot against the light.
  5. Hold the camera steady.
  6. Follow the ‘rule of thirds’: e.g., 1/3 sky and 2/3 land or 2/3 sky and 1/3 land.
  7. Obey the light meter.
  8. Photograph children (and pets) at their own eye level.
  9. Avoid lens flare when shooting against the sun.
  10. Keep the camera level with the horizon.

Now that we know what the rules are, lets look at what breaking those rules might look like.

Breaking The Rules
  1. Keep the center of interest out of focus: play with the balance of forms.
  2. Allow space around the subject; look for interaction with the environment.
  3. Shoot on any day, at any time.
  4. Photograph only against the light for a month.
  5. Shoot while jumping up and down or spinning around.
  6. Vary your composition. Respond emotionally.
  7. Disobey. Mess up the zone system. Overexpose and underexpose by three, even four f/stops.
  8. Move up, down, on the side, all over.
  9. Use lens flare to enhance a composition
  10. Create your own horizon.

I may not be the biggest rule breaker, but I do consistently break rules 2, 4,7, and 9. I used to follow the rules much more than I used to. At one point I couldn’t imagine photographing against the light or disobeying the light meter by overexposing my image. Now I do this all the time, it’s practically second nature. In fact, I think by breaking the rules my photos are better. Because of the success I’ve had breaking the rules so far, I want to look closer at some of these other photographic rules.

The rules I’m most interested in experimenting with are filing the frame, eye level and focus points. Looking at the rule about lens flare makes me think of the beautiful work of Christoffer Östburg and his manufactured lens flare. Maybe I need to look at his technique and see what I can create; experimenting is so much fun!

Trying to break the rules. 🙂

With a little trial and error, maybe we can all learn to become the photographers that Kristina is looking for. Or if not those photographers, at least photographers willing to mix it up, make mistakes and break a few rules along the way.


My questions to you are:
  1. Do you break the rules?
  2. Which rules do you enjoy breaking the most?
  3. Are there other ‘rules’ you enjoy breaking?
  4. Which rule(s) would you never break?
  5. Now that you know what the rules are, can you see yourself deliberately going out of your way to break them?

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