SELF-INDULGENCE 91 – MY PHOTOGRAPHIC “RULES”

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INTRO

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One problem with blogging – assuming that the blog is active for sometime – is that people following the blog later on can miss earlier posts – unless of course they take the trouble to delve through the archives.  Well, archives are OK, but I prefer to show most of my pictures singly and so I’ve set up the Self-Indulgence posts, in which older shots – usually singly –  are given another airing.

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Talking to Steve (SKUK’s World –  http://skuk2.wordpress.com/ ) recently, I found that he hadn’t seen the posts in which I talk about the way that many people – especially Westerners – scan photos with their eyes, which is left to right and top to bottom.

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And so, because these thoughts may be new to others, here are the three posts on the subject.  The earliest post, about my photographic “rules”, is given in full.  The two other posts are Joe Cornish – and my photographic “rules”  and That left to right thing – again! .

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MY PHOTOGRAPHIC “RULES”

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I received a very kind comment on this blog recently that really made me think.  The blogger said that, especially in my abstract work, I really push back what he calls the envelope against so many “rules” – the quotes are his.  When I read this I really didn’t know what to say.  But I was out in the country today, on the Somerset Levels, when I started thinking about this again.  What rules, if any, do I follow in my photography?  After a lot of thought, I can come up with only three.

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First, in some pictures, I think about the Rule Of Thirds, and try to site important compositional elements at visual strong points.  But this is only in some pictures – in more graphic compositions for example –  but by no means in all of my pictures.

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Then, number two, I think about the fact that human eyes scan images from left to right and top to bottom.  I don’t know whether this true of all human eyes, or just those of people originating in the western world.  However, in some cases, for example if a picture has light and dark areas, then I may try to site the paler areas over to the right, so that viewers’ eyes enter the (relative) darkness on the left of the frame, and move on right towards the light.

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Here is an example of this kind of thing, a photo of stacked up mangrove poles on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya.

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Since I wanted to have the group of four poles horizontal (as they were in reality), I was left with the choice of having the near vertical pole on either the left or the right.  I showed both versions to fellow photographers, and we all thought the version above the better of the two.  Our reasoning?  Our eyes started on the left of the image then moved right along the four horizontal poles, to be brought to an abrupt halt by the roped vertical pole, beyond which there is only darkness.  That the near vertical pole slopes down into the picture also helps to hold the eye within the composition.

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Flipping the image horizontally, i.e. having the vertical pole on the left, was nothing like so effective.  Our eyes started at the vertical pole, then travelled along the horizontal poles and straight out of the picture.

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My third rule is the one I use all the time – “Whatever works is good”.  The picture may be uncropped and exactly as it was at capture – or it may have been cropped and re-cropped ad infinitum, and have been sucked through and spat out of heaven knows how many bits of photo software >>> but as long as it looks good, that all that matters.

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Another way of putting this would be that “The end always justifies the means”.

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About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for many types of subject, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.

9 Responses to SELF-INDULGENCE 91 – MY PHOTOGRAPHIC “RULES”

  1. dini says:

    i didn’t know human eyes scan images ..!!!!
    i never thought that was a rule for that….
    As for me…when i take a picture…. i make it desktop background for a couple of hours….after that i make the changes that ” fits ” in my eyes…..some times i just delete them… and put the next one….Dini’s rule…:)

    Like

  2. Sonali Dalal says:

    Whatever your three rules are, I must say they are working fine for you for sure. :)Well,for me “whatever works is good”. At the end I should feel happy with my image. I am not much into technicalities for me visual aspect is more important.

    Like

  3. poppytump says:

    hear hear ! love your work .

    Like

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