Photography Rules and Finding Balance to Discover Your Own Style

Photography Rules and Finding Balance to Discover Your Own Style


Digital photography has put the camera in more hands than ever before and everyone seems to either want to follow the standard mold of photography or they want to completely break away from it.

For instance, Ian Ruhter took a delivery van and transformed it into a giant wet plate camera. There are so many photographers out there that are wanting to copy someone else’s style instead of finding their own. Learn the rules and then use them or twist them as you need to do to make your own art and to tell your story. One part of your image may follow the standard photography rules and another part will completely be out of the norm. Not everyone sees the image or the story the same and that is fine. Don’t get so caught up in trying to make everything absolutely perfect that you lose the shot.

One of the rules that you hear a lot is to simplify your image. Sometimes, especially in street photography, you can’t simplify the scene. Sometimes the scene has to speak for itself. Whether it’s chaos or clutter, sometimes you need to just go with what you have and work with it. There are stories that can be told just by being the silent observer and recording the image at that place and time.

Photography Rules and Finding Balance

Some photographers will talk to you endlessly about the Rule of Thirds and not centering your subject. Composition of the image is really subjective, but people get too comfortable just centering the image and when they start thinking outside of that box they begin to see everything in a new way. Moving your subject slightly off to the side can actually bring the focus onto them. Just make sure that no matter where your subject is in the image that they are the focus.

Photography Rules and Finding Balance

Using patterns and lines can draw your viewer in more. It helps for them to picture the scene and even put themselves into that moment in time. S-curves work really well to draw your eyes to a particular spot in an image. You can also try a new perspective and get down really low to the ground and use whatever lines are there to your advantage. Experimenting with your shooting techniques can help you learn what works for your style and what doesn’t.

Photography Rules and Finding Balance

Use of color and tone in an image can set the scene for the viewer. Colors can bring a harmony and unity to an image or it can be used to emphasize a certain part of the image. Color can add contrast, it can help parts of the image blend in, or it can really make a bold statement. Using color in your image can convey emotion and without a written word it can tell you what time of day it is, such as sunrise or sunset.

Photography Rules and Finding Balance

You could do a Google search on photography rules and it would make your head spin from trying to follow all of them, but the important thing about photography rules is knowing when to follow them, when to break them, and when to vary them up just enough to fit your image. Learning to find that balance takes time and practice. Sometimes you just have to learn from the mistakes you make and take those lessons with you to your next shoot. Don’t forget that art is very subjective and what works for one image may not work for another. Experimenting with techniques and composition helps you to learn about photography and find your own creative balance.

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Lori Peterson is an award winning photographer based out of the St. Louis Metro Area. Her dynamic work ranges from creative portraits to very unique fine art photography. Lori's work can be seen at and also on her blog. You can follow her on Facebook.

  • This is so helpful, it is so easy to get tangled up in the rules and forget to explore your own signature and style With so many people taking photos it is more important than ever to be true to yourself.

  • Donald Grant

    It’s not what you see, but how you see it.

  • Cheryl Garrity


    ?I like your article,
    short and to the point. The “rules” can be very helpful. I find myself
    thinking about composition as I frame my shots. It seems to me that my best
    shots are simple with few elements. I have more low light shots than one might expect.
    I also find that I use a lot of leading lines and vertices. I guess I am
    beginning to define my style? You can see a small sample of my work at

    Cheryl Garrity

  • marius2die4

    Yes is true, the composition and the personal view in post processing will be your “watermark”. A good write article! Congratulation!

    Some of my pics:

  • Rob Bixby

    I always tell new photographers, to learn the rules well enough, that when you break them it looks intentional, and not like sloppy composition.

  • mtphill

    I always tell myself to step back, take a breath and then look again to see the desired results. Think photographically about the subject, looking past the obvious. Lastly, rules are made by whom?

  • Lori Peterson

    I think there are photographers who don’t realize that they are also artists and that they are continuously evolving the more they shoot. Whether you are shooting portraits, landscapes or whatever, you will find that in a few years you will look back and see how your life and everything around you starts to influence your images. Some thing swill evolve and change with you and some things will be left behind.

  • mtphill

    Lori…I couldn’t agree more. Photography is art, even when it’s in support of journalism. I took a course a few years back from a MS in photo journalism. She said you have to tell the story in three images. In that mindset the story through photographs become the words. Words can also be very artistic.
    As we all mature in the passion of capturing images this artist means of telling a story also matures.

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