Five Photography Rules You May Want to Ignore

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A few years ago when I purchased my first Canon dSLR I took a free 2-hour class on digital photography from a local school. They offered free seminars as a way to market their series of intensive 6-week photography courses. I was new to digital photography at the time, having learned on 35mm film. During the class I scribbled away in the notebook the instructor handed out. I was given several photography rules to follow, but is that the best advice?

My camera-loving orange tabby Carter, shot in low light, requiring a relatively high ISO of 1600 to get a fast enough shutter speed to hand hold. ISO 1600, 1/125th, F4 @ 105mm.

My camera-loving orange tabby Carter, shot in low light, requiring a relatively high ISO of 1600 to get a fast enough shutter speed to hand-hold. ISO 1600, 1/125th, f/4 @ 105mm.

The thing about photography is that it’s a series of decisions starting with the brand of gear you choose and it funnels down to your favorite subject, your preferred shooting mode, your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. By applying popular advice to all situations, you eliminate too many of the key creative decision about how your images look. Go ahead and disagree with or ignore rule-of-thumb photography advice. The choices you make allow you to create images that feel right to you – and that’s the real sweet spot.

So let’s look at five supposed photography rules and see if you agree or disagree with them.

1. Set the ISO at 400

One of my instructor’s key points was to set the ISO at 400 and forget it.

Since I didn’t know anything about digital photography, it seemed like pretty good advice, so I tried it. I also made a lot of blurry images. Set at ISO 400, and limited by a wide open aperture of f/3.5 on my kit lens, I often couldn’t gather enough light for a shutter speed fast enough to prevent motion blur. I flipped back to Auto Shooting Mode (Full Auto or Program) and suddenly my images were sharp again.

I dissected the settings on the Auto Mode shots and – you’ve probably guessed this already – the main difference while in Auto Mode was that the ISO was higher, enabling a faster shutter speed and reducing motion blur.

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While this image wouldn’t have made the cut because of the awkward composition, the horse is also a bit blurry because my ISO was too low, allowing my shutter speed to lag. It wasn’t fast enough to freeze the motion of the moving horse. ISO 800, 1/160th, f/5.6, 176mm.

Increasing your digital ISO makes your camera’s sensor more sensitive to light, meaning you can shoot at smaller apertures and/or faster shutter speeds in low light conditions. Like film, increasing your ISO can create a grainier, noisier image. But unlike film, digital cameras have extraordinary ISO capacity. High-end cameras like the Canon 1Dx Mark II have an ISO capability of 51,200 expandable to 409,600! Sticking to ISO 400 is like pretending you’re still shooting film and disregarding all the recent digital technology advances.

Earlier this year I was in Mesa, AZ photographing the Salt River Wild horses at dawn. During blue hour, I started with my ISO too low, my shutter speed lagged, and I shot a whole series of blurry images (see image above). Purely by luck, at ISO 800, only this one didn’t have motion blur.

Five Photography Tips to Ignore A

ISO 800

The next day, I started at ISO 12,800 to keep my shutter high enough to prevent motion blur, gradually decreasing my ISO was the sun grew brighter.

Five Photography Tips to Ignore B

ISO 12,800

Five Photography Tips to Ignore C

ISO 1250

While these images might be noisier than those shot at ISO 400, noise is almost always preferred to motion blur. Digital noise can be managed, while an unintentionally blurry picture can rarely be saved.

Setting your ISO to an unrealistically low value and leaving it there is the sort of advice or rule I’d encourage you to ignore.

2. You never need to shoot faster than 1/500th of a second

There’s a famous teaching photographer (I mentioned him here too) who says that you never need to shoot faster than 1/500th of a second. I ignore his advice too. Here’s why.

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Shutter speed 1/500th

This image, shot at 1/500th of a second, shows motion blur in the horse’s legs. Sometimes you may want to intentionally include motion blur in your images because it shows speed in a dynamic way, and in this case, that’s what I wanted. If I wanted no motion blur, I would need to have chosen a faster shutter speed.

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Shutter speed 1/640th

This image, shot at 1/640th of a second, is sharper. It has very minimal motion blur in the legs but again, it still shows motion blur.

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Shutter speed 1/1000th

If you shoot at 1/1000th and above, you can get crisp, blur-free images of fast-moving objects or animals in motion. In this image, even the water droplets are frozen in time.

Depending on your creative goals, you may want to experiment and shoot from 1/100th, all the way up to 1/8000th of a second. That’s the reason to ignore this rule. Adhering to 1/500th of a second as your maximum shutter speed takes too many of your creative choices away from you.

3. Serious photographers always use tripods

Has your instructor or mentor told you that to be serious about making images, you must always use a tripod? That’s another piece of advice you might want to ignore, unless the type of work you make truly requires a tripod. Night photography, for example, typically requires a tripod because of the longer shutter speeds.

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Night photography – with a tripod

Long exposure photography, astrophotography and shooting landscapes at dusk or dawn are all good examples of when to use a tripod in order to make excellent images.

Macro photography often requires a tripod but sometimes doesn’t. This image was made hand-held.

Five Photography Tips to Ignore H

Macro photography – handheld

Street photography never requires a tripod. The most serious street photographers I know use small camera bodies with prime lenses. What makes them serious is that they carry their cameras all the time and are always ready to shoot. For a street photographer, lugging around a tripod actually seems a little ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Five Photography Tips to Ignore I

Street photography – handheld

I’m a very serious photographer and I almost never use a tripod. I have two: a Travel Flat Benro tripod and a Gitzo with a Really Right Stuff BH 40 Ball Head. I always have one in the car or in my suitcase, but I rarely use either one anymore.

Does that mean I’m no longer a serious photographer? No, of course not. I travel all over the world to photograph horses and wildlife. I’m very serious about the images I make. The thing is, my images don’t usually require a tripod. Using one is sometimes even counterproductive when photographing fast bursts of action.

When two wild stallions start to fight out in the desert, I begin to shoot while adjusting my body position to look for the best angles for the scene to improve my composition. Sometimes a wild stallion spat can last for mere seconds. If you had to pause to adjust your tripod, you’d likely miss the action.

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Wild stallions – hand-held. ISO 250, 1/800th, f/8 @ 98mm

Being a serious photographer isn’t about the gear you choose to use or not use. Being serious is about making images with intention. Your intention might be totally different than the photographer using the tripod. If it is, ignore his advice to use one.

4. Only shoot in Manual Mode

Most of the professional, money-making photographers I know actually shoot in Aperture Priority so I think this rule is more the advice of old-fashioned, learned-on-film photographers. These photographers grew up using Manual Mode since that’s the only option that was available. They didn’t have the choice of Auto, Aperture or Shutter Priority Modes.

So that’s the rub. You do have a choice. You also have stellar gear that is going to make the right exposure choice 90% of the time. Why not learn to use all the modes on your camera?

At a cocktail party for your bestie’s 40th? Use Auto Mode to make sure you get the shot. Shooting fast action? Use Shutter Priority. Shooting in quickly shifting light? Use Manual Mode and set your ISO to Auto. Shooting a portrait? Experiment with Aperture Priority and then give your camera’s Portrait Mode a try.

Five Photography Tips to Ignore K

Self-portrait shot in Portrait Program Mode. 100, 1/100th, f/3.5 @ 50mm

Cameras today have amazing functionality. Anyone telling you to exclusively use Manual Mode may have different photography goals than you do. If your goal is to make sure you make the best images possible, ignore their advice and learn all of your camera’s capabilities backward and forwards.

5. Only shoot in your lens’s sweet spot

If you’re keeping track, by heeding all of this well-intentioned advice, your camera is in Manual Mode and attached to a tripod. Your ISO is set at 400 and you’re using a maximum shutter speed of 1/500th. There has to be a rule about aperture and focal length too, right? There is.

The sweet spot is a combination of the aperture and focal length where your lens functions at its absolute best. If you’ve read reviews about zoom lenses you may have seen something along the lines of: “Wide open at f/5.6 at the maximum focal length of 400mm, the corners get soft and there’s a noticeable loss of sharpness throughout.” Photographers write reviews like that so that you can avoid shooting in the so-called soft end of your lens and gravitate towards its sweet spot.

You can evaluate the sweet spot of your lens by making a series of images of the same subject, in the same lighting conditions, using each aperture at every focal length and comparing the results. (Read: How To Find Your Lens’ Sweet Spot: A Beginner’s Guide to Sharper Images for a full description of how to do this.) That sort of evaluation sounds soul-crushing and unnecessary to me. If you buy a zoom lens, you’re buying it because you need that focal length in your bag. Why run a test on your lens that might make you hesitate to use it at its maximum focal length?

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The real sweet spot is making images that feel right to you. ISO 2500, 1/80th, f/4.5 @73mm

Instead how about learning the capabilities of your lens by truly using it? Over time, you may gradually learn that the sweet spot is 100mm at f/8, because every image you shoot at that aperture and focal length is amazing. Rather than avoiding the rest of your lens’ focal length range and aperture combinations, you can shoot a second image using the sweet spot. If there isn’t time to shoot a second image, that’s okay. Just be grateful you had a lens capable of capturing the image at all.

Bottom line

The bottom line is that as you progress in your photography journey, you get to make the decisions. What advice and rules will you follow, and which will you toss out?

Be disagreeable with me! What photography rules have you been taught that you ignore now? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Lara Joy Brynildssen is an avid equine, wildlife, nature and travel photographer. She is crazy about her cats, loves her Canon 5D Mark IV, and never refuses a sip of limoncello. More seriously, LJ is working on several series of wild horse images, writes about and teaches photography and exhibits her work in the Chicagoland area. Follow her at www.LaraJoy.us.

  • Igor Farago

    Before disregarding these “rules” I’d first disregard the one who gave them. Although I can’t imagine a real photography instructor who would say any of them.

  • Lev Bass

    I am sorry but I don’t recognize the rules you listed. I expected to see the rule of thirds and the like – things every photography book mentions. But “set ISO to 400”? Only shoot in the sweet spot of your lens? It looks like you came up with the last rule and then shot it down.

  • Bobbi Rubinstein

    Thanks for this article. What I got from it is to think for yourself and shoot what you like. Learn the ‘rules’ perhaps but then make photos for yourself. I get so caught up with whether my tech skills are good enough that I Iose the fun of shooting. Can I even call myself a photographer if I don’t know everything?! Your next article could be debunking what a ‘real’ photographer is. If I don’t shoot with my DSLR and a huge lens should I be dismissed? Much easier to snap street shots with my cell on the bus!

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Bobbi, yes, exactly. You totally get it. All sorts of people/photographers can give you advice on how you “should shoot” but ultimately you have to decide what’s right for you. Thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate it.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Hi Igor, I try not to disregard people because when they take the time to teach or give advice, they typically have good intentions. What I find is that their intentions as photographers don’t always match mine and that’s when all of this advice gets a little ridiculous. My point was that no matter who is teaching you (and one of my examples is from a Canon Explorer of Light), you have to evaluate and decide what’s best for you as an artist/photographer. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing your opinion. I appreciate it.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Hi Lev. When I write, I always write from a very personal viewpoint and use examples that I’ve experienced during my life as a photographer. I’ve read plenty of articles on breaking the rule of thirds and I didn’t really think we needed another one… What I was really trying to do was point out that all rules aren’t good for all photographers all of the time. We not only have to learn, we gave to make choices about what applies to us. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing your opinion. I appreciate it.

  • Steve Bachmeier

    Sheesh, harsh commentators. I just wanted to say thanks for the article. I’ve heard or read every single rule you mentioned (often from very introductory courses…just you like said up front) and never bothered to take them too much to heart for all of the reasons you point out.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thanks Steve! I’m so glad you “get it.”

  • Poor rules well countered. For starters, any rule about photography is going to work against you. You only learn by experimentation and that includes all options. Particularly if you are interested in photography as art and not as a means to make yet more copycat images of stuff that’s been done a thousand times before. Be original and make mistakes. That’s the only advice that I’ve found that’s truly helpful.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thank you! Making mistakes is key to learning how to make images with intention. It’s sort of like getting list when you travel and miraculously finding your way back to your hotel!

  • Melissa

    You’ve clearly never taken an introductory photography course. I remember hearing all of these rules at some point or another. She isn’t making anything up and she has good, clear reasons for why you should ignore these limiting types of rules. The “rule” of thirds is less a rule than a composition technique.

  • Lev Bass

    I agree with the reasons why those rules should be ignored. I still think the rules are very strange.

  • Charles G. Haacker

    Lara Joy, I think you’ve nailed it! Something I do a lot anymore is use aperture priority and auto ISO, letting my ISO “float.” This is something that was (duh) impossible in film, and that I view as part of the Miracle of Digital. Sure, sometimes the noise can rise with the ISO, but doing this allows me to handhold and shoot in all kinds of available dark with a not-unrealistic expectation of a reasonable exposure and sharpness. It’s a total cheat, sure, but back when I was in school in the mid-70’s our instructors were wise enough to teach us as many cheats as they could. They pointed out that for commercial photographers, the ultimate dream was to load film between the ears and blink. We’re still not totally there but the modern digital camera gets close. ?

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thank you Melissa! I love it that you “get it!”

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Hey Lev, I appreciate that you’re thinking about this. That’s really why I write for dPS, to learn new ideas and dialog about things. I think maybe the hang up here is the word “Rules” which comes into play more in the title of the piece than anywhere else. I originally called it “Advice” but that title was awkward to write out and read. Titles need to be snappy and “Rules” was snappier. If you think of these things less as “Rules” and more as “Advice” that one gets along the road of their photographic journey, maybe it will feel better to you.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Hi Charles, thanks for chiming in! I use a similar technique when I’m photographing wild horses at dawn. The light is dark but changing rapidly and I know I need to keep a minimum shutter speed of 1/750 or 1/500. I usually like an aperture of F/8 for horses (they’re big animals and need more depth of field). I set all that up in manual and then use Auto ISO to fill in the “light gap.” Usually at break of light I’m shooting ISO 12,800. When the sun is way up, I’m shooting at ISO 800 or less. I think of it as very clever cheating. The images we can make today far surpass teh ones we could make in teh 80’s when I was a teenager…

  • David

    I grew up with a Zenit B and Sangamo Weston light meter, bought with money I saved with my paper round. I set out on Lara’s road, to take pictures with intent, which meant, as a novice, learning and applying “the rules”. Unfortunately, these rules were laid out in the stuffy photography magazines of the time, by chaps who could afford Olympuses, Nikons and Canons, and had the means to shoot off several rolls in a oner, with their motor drives.

    Applying these rules, I turned out pictures that met with the approval of the seniors down at the Camera Club, but which lacked LIFE.

    Enter my buddy with his Zenit E (he could afford the best, as he had a full-time job as a mechanic). He hated reading, knew nothing about the rules, and simply set about with intent to take lively pictures. It took me some time to work out the elusive quality that separated his unruly, lively photos from mine.

    To his natural talent for composition, he introduced the unusual ANGLE. Without this, rules of thirds, L-shaped composition, foregrounds and so on, were simply so many words. In the words of an old language teacher, if you want to master a language, you have to learn at the feet of the masters.

    My buddy had the language of photos down pat. When I loosened the chains of the rules, and opened up to the idea of angles, I immediately felt a deep-down satisfaction; I could create photos with impact.

    Look for an upward angle for portraits. Or a shot looking over shoulders for sporting events, to give a feeling of involvement. Hunker down in front of cars and trains, and get them in the face of the viewer.

    I now have a Canon Sureshot, which suits me down to the ground. Set it on Auto, with “burst” mode and its variable zoom lens, and you never miss a moment through pressing the shutter too late, or messing about changing lenses.

    One rule that I must observe, though .. Get to know your camera back to front.

    Lara has a healthy view on rules. If they don’t suit you, do what does.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    David,
    Wow, so well written, thank you. YES to everything you’ve said.
    I know those exact same camera clubbers that you describe. They must be everywhere 😛
    LJB.

  • Becky Pearman

    Yes, well said! I have been shooting equine events for years and struggled with the ISO and shutter speed “rules”. Finally, I have a Canon 7d Mark II which can handle blazing high ISO’s along with a minimum of 800 shutter to stop blur. I’ve posted these examples and what I shot them at (both with the Mark II, but one before I experimented and the other how I shoot now) The first image shot at 1000 ISO 1/400th and f 3.2. The second just taken last weekend in early low light at 3200 ISO 1/800 and f 5 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/765d678435ef3c803b6d56318e29f1ab5b98cb7d3d914defe22b89af9510446f.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f95725e0f6af0b00ec77795867fcaf26088cd9e40ad3805befd77eb75d566971.jpg

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Becky, That’s fantastic that you are experimenting and finding ways to shoot that work best for you! The ability to use hand-hold with high ISOs is life-changing for a photographer, isn’t it?

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    Actually, there is a good reason why instructors on the basic introductory courses use ‘Rules’ for absolute beginners. You can’t learn photography in two hours.
    Too many people turn out reams of pictures which are blurry, poorly composed, badly lit, contain distracting backgrounds etc. The ‘Rules’ are there to get over the initial learning curve.
    But it is important that you are also told to try the rules, and then break them. I teach photography to Scouts, and many of them have never taken photos before. I give them this advice: “I teach you a rule so that you understand what can help in many situations, but you must learn for yourself what really works, and when to discard the rules.”
    The ‘Rule of Thirds’ is a good example – it transforms their first efforts from messy, distracting snaps into composed images, and then they go on to break that rule in imaginative ways.
    However, I’d never say that ‘Use 400 ISO’ is a rule, only an option to get them started until they understand the exposure triangle. And as for using only Manual mode – what rubbish! Learn to see a picture first and foremost, shoot in full Auto, then later learn how to control the camera to get better. But they must try the other modes once they understand why, which comes a long way after ‘What is a good picture?’

  • Jojo Guingona

    Shoot only near dawn or near sunset. While I understand the reason behind that thinking, some of my favorite images have been shot with the harshest of light. Bottom line is that you shouldn’t be pigeon holed by any of these so-called rules.

  • Marion Esposito

    Thank you SO much for this article. I can’t wait to get out and shoot with a whole new perspective. I have a tripod and always feel frustrated when I try to take photos with it….but I use it sometimes because, well, I was told I’d have really sharp images…not true. I set my camera on Manual…why…because I shouldn’t let the camera decide what setting is best. So, I get more images I’m not happy with and I’ve blurred many great shots that could have been fantastic….but I spent so much time messing with my settings when in Manual than capturing great moments. Although I won’t set my camera to Auto 99.9% of the time because I enjoy being creative, I will definitely explore Aperture Priority and not feel bad about it or less of a photographer. I will remember that it’s ok to shoot with an ISO over 100 too! Thank you so much for reminding me to have fun and just keep learning.

  • David

    Hi, Charles,

    I daresay that portrait artists of the time thought that these new-fangled camera things were cheats. How could it not be cheating to paint with light, rather than brushes?

    And what self-respecting news photographer could possibly dispense with his hefty pack of flash bulbs, in favour of an infinitely renewable source of illumination .. the electronic flash?

    There is a world of difference between “cheating”, and making the most efficient use of modern tools. I shudder to think of the number of shots I took on film, with the intention of cropping them at a later stage. But faced with the task in the darkroom, messing around with the enlarger? Oh, my Lord, life was just too short.

    I have to confess, though, that I do find myself feeling guilty when using even the most basic of cropping and enhancing tools with my digital shots. But when you have only taken two decent group shots at a wedding or christening, and you can spin them out to yield a dozen cameos, I forget the guilt and feel pleased.

    Long live digital.

  • David

    Here we go with the angles, getting down low for the portraits, and taking advantage of poor light for my guitarist shot. Oh, and talking about making up your own mind .. The reviews for my camera said that it performed badly in low lighting conditions.

    I did revert to foreground composition for the roller-coaster. Sometimes the rules are right .. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cbba3aa2d126375be451e49ad21212ba6848452a20f660c073da3989710f090e.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/04b3f1e3693978f3f10de1b66671ae25c0aa9dde2399fcd17b8279d29c73cdd8.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/53f846702785a1236f43e8582d3141e478883351a5f911c84157ad374211cf2e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ec3ac308395c247f1c8b0c3cca330bbbabc4a7f8b2de77e0e50085849ca82db1.jpg

  • Siemvanwesten

    David i started with a Zenith E , so had a headstart ; >)
    I was laughed at at times but had posters made of a number of my foto’ s!
    Now with a Nikon 3100, i had comments about the pover qualifications of this camera but praise for some of my pictures!?
    I often state that i’m not hindred by fototechnical knowledge.
    Of course i read about and tryout the tips but don’t get fixed by them.
    So keep the tips comming .

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thanks for sharing these great images. Sometimes the rules ARE right but sometimes we need to be creative and express ourselves differently with a different solution to the light puzzle. I like your solutions!

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thank you for reading and commenting.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Marion, you hit the nail on the head… By not adhering to these “rules” we can be made to feel like we are less of a real photographer than someone else. Really tho, by learning and knowing the rules and then figuring out how to shoot in our own ways, using our own techniques to create our own styles, that’s when we become the most creative and “real.” I look forward to seeing new and freer photos from you 🙂

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Dawn and dusk, yes! those are such good ones to break. I have some photos I love that were taken at the harshest of daylight. I was thinking I should have included “don’t shoot at F/22” because of that dreaded diffraction. (I shoot at f/22 whenever I darn well want to).

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Very well stated, Bob. Thank you. And that’s awesome that you teach photography took scouts, too.

  • Marion Esposito

    I completely agree. You do need to learn the rules first…I’m so glad I did, then once you have it down become creative and explore all you can to discover the creative side of yourself.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Yes!! And thank you so much for reading and sharing 🙂

  • pete guaron

    More rules – sigh – I must have fallen asleep during that talk, I hadn’t heard some of those rules before.
    Lara Joy, I’m a bit (a lot?) feral – tell me I “have” to do something & I’m more likely to try the opposite, first.
    But when we start, we have to start with a few ideas – rules if you like – that will help us get things under way. As long as there’s a note somewhere, that these ideas are “general principles”, not binding on all occasions.
    Alongside the ones you’ve listed are the so-called “rules of composition”.
    And a string of others, “governing” how to photograph water, the evils of “natural light” vs artificial or studio lighting, etc.
    If photography is to be “creative”, surely we must move away from the concept of “rules” and explore what we can do with the equipment we have? Respecting the wisdom of our “elders”, perhaps, because they’ve been there before us and tried these things out too – but retaining the flexibility to try different things out, and to develop a style of our own?
    Whenever this topic comes up, I am reminded of the world of art – down through the ages, most artists have learned by studying the work of the “old masters” and then going on to develop their own style.
    Picasso for example – I once saw a film in which someone asked why he didn’t do any “conventional” paintings – he all but lost his temper, but he grabbed a handful of brushes and some paint & in 10 minutes flat, painting wet on wet, he painted an “impressionist landscape” that any of the great artists of the impressionist school would have been proud to have painted. That was how he learned “technique”. But as we all know, painting in that manner is not what made Picasso famous. And the world would have been deprived of one of the greatest talents of all time, if Picasso had been lashed to the main mast by “rules”.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    I think we’re on the same page here, Pete. I spent quite a bit of time studying the masters and learning “the rules” when I was pursuing my BFA and again when I was studying for a graduate degree in education. Rules, guidelines, conventional art-making advice, wise tips from older and more experienced creators, all of it can be a snore. These rules are important to learn; they are also important to sometimes discard. Part of it is knowing who is giving out the advice and why. Part is knowing what your own goals as a creator are and hopefully, eventually, also the why.

  • Bill Camarota

    I strongly disagree with #4. If you do not learn how to shoot in manual mode when first starting out in photography, you won’t learn much about the properties of light. In addition when it comes time to shoot in aperture or shutter priority you will be clueless as to their advantages and which one to use and when. I’ve been shooting for over 45 years and there are great lessons to be learned by shooting in manual and moreover shooting a roll of film just once. When you have a grasp of the manual mode, you can truly say you know how to use your camera thoroughly. You will never be accused of “just pressing a button” to take a photo. Good photography isn’t just about composition, it’s more about light. And as I always tell my students “It’s all about the light and once you understand that you are well on your way.”

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Hi Bill! You know, when I get a notification of an email comment that someone is vehemently disagreeing with me I always think, oh NO! But then I re-read your comment, and I read #4 again and I honestly don’t think we’re disagreeing much at all here. The point of that section is that I think photographers should learn to use ALL modes on their camera. I think I re-stated that 2 or 3 times within that section too. That includes manual mode. The more we learn about how our cameras work, the more we learn about how to make intentional art and images that convey a strong, clear message. There’s also a viewpoint that all beginners should start in Auto Mode so that they can learn “to see” and to compose properly without worrying about technical aspects. I see the point of that too, don’t you? I teach my students how to do all of it – Auto, Av, Tv, Manual – plus when and why. And then I let them do what suits them best. One of the most beautiful things any student/fellow photographer has said to me is that they feel when I write and teach, I am giving her the tools and permission to make the images she wants to make in the way she wants to make them That’s now a guiding principle for me and I think it’s a good one. Thank you for commenting and making me think about this this morning.

  • Sure is!

  • Richard Messenger

    Like this! Good choice of things to ignore.

  • Jeri Baker

    Good read. I have always believed in your ideas.

  • Clarence Hemeon

    Thank you for this article. Very informative. I find myself sometimes falling into these rules and wonder what the hell am I doing.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thanks! Exactly, sometimes we just follow the rules without thinking about our own personal image making goals.

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thank you!!

  • Lara Joy Brynildssen

    Thank you Richard!

  • Claudia Döhner

    Well, as you stated , these are rules, not laws. In the beginning it can be helpful to know a few rules, as you progress break as many as you want!

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