Break the Rules - tyneholm
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Break the Rules

Assignment L21

Rules abound in landscape photography and they are designed to help us create balanced compositions and achieve technical accuracy. Some of the better known include: the Rule of Thirds, which determines the placement of key compositional elements, such as the focal point and the horizon, by visualizing a grid of nine squares; the Golden Section, which divides up the frame according to a particularly harmonious ratio found in nature; and the Rule of Odds, which suggests that an odd number of subjects is inherently more interesting than an even number. Other common tendencies in landscape photography are extreme depth of field, filling foregrounds with a suitable subject, and an unwillingness to place the main subject at the center of the frame. 

Knowing the rules is obviously important. Slavishly following a set of guidelines, however, can result in images that are rather stale and “sameY:’ It can be fun, inspiring, and sometimes necessary to break the rules. For this assignment, set your imagination free, follow your instinct, and deliberately break the design rules to see if you can create something visually exciting. 

There is a danger that your images will lack cohesion and structure. But if you work with a critical eye and try to develop a feeling for what works and what doesn’t, you should be able to create a selection of strikingly different photographs. 

View the images


  • Placing the subject centrally is discouraged, but there are occasions when it works well-for instance, when there are strong lines “funneling” attention toward the subject, and in minimalist compositions with a lot of negative space around the subject.
  • Reflections often look better when symmetry is employed in the composition, rather than dividing the frame more conventionally according to the design theory called the Rule of Thirds. 
  • The square format naturally suits bold, graphic compositions with a central subject.

Field Notes

  • If there is a particularly strong sky, don’t be afraid to abandon the Rule of Thirds and let the sky dominate the frame.