How to Break the Rules of Photography Successfully

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photographer Tips, Photography Tips

man on gray seamless paper

Most photographers have a rebellious streak. If not, we’d all be engineers or mathematicians like our parents always wanted. Instead we took to spending excessive amounts of time in complete darkness, inordinate amounts of money on  cameras, studio equipment and Photoshop, and decided we wanted to snap photos of (sometimes unwilling) people and make a living doing it. The irony of this, as most artists can probably argue, is that as soon as you set off on your artistically-inclined rebellion, you encounter a laundry list of rules: the rule of thirds, rules about leading lines, color, and symmetry. And while all artistic fields do demand a certain element of structure, some of these rules are better off left behind.

Here are five rules of photography which are just begging for your leather-donning teenage alter-ego to break—at least once in awhile.

 1. Put Your Subject in the Center

The first assignment that most students must complete upon entry into a Photography 101 class is about the rule of thirds, and while this is a great way to show students that the subject doesn’t always have to be center-frame, sometimes, it really is better there.

Photo Courtesy of Megan Youngblood

 2. Get Noisy

Sure, when you are shooting school portraits or a wedding or just simply need a clean, crisp image for promotional materials for your newest client, this is probably not the best time to experiment with that grainy appearance which comes from setting your ISO a little higher. But sometimes, noise adds an artistic element which, although typically not desirable, can add a little character to an otherwise uninteresting image.

Photo Courtesy of Megan Youngblood

3. Tilt the Camera

I know, the horizon is supposed to run parallel to the bottom of the frame, but sometimes everything just looks cool tilted at an odd angle. Since we all see (more or less) from a straight on perspective, things look different when they are titled at an angle, and can create a stronger image simply because it lets your viewers see the world from an angle that is out-of-the-ordinary.

Photo Courtesy of Megan Youngblood

4. OverExpose/UnderExpose/Ignore Your Light Meter!

This rule is probably the one I break most frequently. Sometimes that little dot, which we strive so hard to get smack in between the + and – symbols, is just plain lying. The thing is, your light meter always wants to average your entire image to middle grey. Now, does this make sense if what you are shooting is an inherently dark or light subject? No! So ignore that bossy little light meter, and over/under expose at will.


Photo Courtesy of Megan Youngblood

5. Move the Camera

There are many reasons this can be problematic if you are looking for detail, and I’m pretty sure it is evident why (motion will give you blur which will inherently lower clarity). However sometimes freezing movement creates a really stunning effect since we don’t see that way naturally. Freezing this effect in a photo gives us a unique spin on a perhaps otherwise standard subject.

Photo Courtesy of Megan Youngblood

What is one photography rule that you have broken before?

Interested in learning more fun photography experiments? Check out 10 Fun Photo Projects You Should Try!

-Megan Youngblood

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Comments (1)

  • Bunni Schile


    I break the rule of ignoring my light meter on almost every single shot I take. Once in a while I will actually take a shot where the meter tells me, but it is not usually a photo I end up loving. I usually shoot one to two steps underexposed and love my photos!


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