Guidelines can improve many photo's - what else?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by mikemorrell, Jan 20, 2022.

  1. Many of us have read - and adopted - very good guidelines for taking better photo's such as:
    - the rule of thirds
    - filling the frame
    - incorporating compositional (leading/diagonal) lines and shapes
    - taking tonal and color contrasts into account
    - adhering to the 'gestalt principle' through which viewers mentally 'fill in gaps as to what's missing
    - etc.

    By following these (and other ) guidelines, we can improve our photos.

    What else contributes to making a photo stand out from the rest?
  2. Passion.








    Harmony - Tension - Counterpoint - Rhythm - Flourishes - Orchestration.

    Risk taking (doing things that push and change your own taste and challenge the tastes of others).

    Understanding there's not a right photo waiting to come through. There's the photo you want.

    Understanding that the photo is more than its subject.

    A willingness to understand and use the guidelines when they work and not adhere to them when they don't.

    Personalizing and adapting the guidelines. NOT thinking the guidelines alone will yield a good photo and, instead, knowing they alone can often yield a more typical one.
  3. I think from now on I shall think of Mike as Clipboard Mike :)
  4. Spontaneity
  5. Know what you want the result to be.
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  6. Just hold the trigger down and take an infinite number of images. A few of them are bound to be good. ;)
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  7. Move the camera around a bit as you do that, otherwise you'll get an infinite number of images of the same thing.

    I like to get a sense of depth, so will choose vantage points to emphasize that, if I can. Visual balance is important, using shapes and tones, though I don't know of any rules. Top heavy images make people nervous and tend to tip over in their frames. I admit to rarely thinking about any specific rules when shooting, I just move me or the subject around until it feels right. I might make minor adjustments in cropping during post.
  8. If you have a digital camera: Take less pictures
    If you have a film camera: Take more pictures
  9. Mike, the crux of the matter might have to do with what you mean by better. Can you elaborate?

    I think guidelines, which generally come from the experience and insights of experts over the years, can be helpful, especially when learning a craft. I also think guidelines tend to steer us toward what's pleasing, what's popular, and what's been already done. So, if by better you mean more liked, more pleasing, more accessible, and more like the good stuff you've seen before, I think guidelines can help.

    But I also think to get better in terms of more creative, more individual, more unique, provocative, etc., guidelines provide only a beginning, and can sometimes even lead down a stray path. Going beyond the guidelines is crucial. That's where some of the things I mentioned in my first post might come in handy. I also appreciate the mention of spontaneity, which can help.

    You seemed to point in a certain direction with: "'gestalt principle' through which viewers mentally fill in gaps"

    I'd like to hear more of your thinking on this. Because I think working with ambiguity, suggestion, omission, mystery, puzzles, etc. can both set up a connection between photographer, photo, and viewer and also engage viewers in having some sort of stake in the photos they're looking at.

    Crucially, becoming a "better" viewer can help lead to becoming a "better" photographer. I think openness is a key. When viewers don't get what they expect, don't get what they already have seen and determined to be good, it tends to violate their tastes and they may quickly turn off to it. That may be the point at which, instead, they should let go of their own biases and tastes and see through a different pair of eyes. The more one practices seeing differently and without the usual expectations, the more one might be able to make pictures that do the same and that "stand out."
  10. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    I will suggest having a good editing program and learning how to use it.
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  11. Confidence.
    Not losing sight of the possibility that everybody else might be wrong.
    Not losing sight of the possibility that you might be wrong.
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  12. When posting, I was thinking about the many websites which offer 'Top Ten (or 2 or 20, ...) Tips' for taking better photos. Usually targeted towards beginning photographers (including smartphone photographers). The 'Tips' vary somewhat from one website to the next. Still, compositional guidelines such as the rule of thirds, filling the frame, and 'leading lines' are often mentioned along with lighting and exposure. So these websites offer 'Tips' for taking 'more interesting' and 'less boring' photos.

    'Gestalt' (German: form, shape) is a set of principles that describes how people mentally organize their perception (into familiar forms and shapes, foreground/background, etc.).
    You're right, I was thinking about the 'closure' principle in particular, whereby people mentally 'fill in the gaps' to form familiar shapes, forms or patterns from incomplete information. A common example is a wheel on a vehicle or bicycle. According to the 'closure' principle, you don't need to include the whole wheel in a photo, just enough so that the viewer mentally 'fills in' the missing part.
    There are 2 principles worth mentioning:
    - 'similarity' whereby similar elements in a photo (in terms of shape/form/color) tend to be perceived as a group or pattern, especially when these are closer together; similarity (and grouping) creates a sense of harmony; elements that don't fit into the group add some disharmony (interest and/or and tension); again an example is whereby one member of an otherwise harmonious group 'falls out line' in some way
    - 'emergence' whereby a familiar form/shape gradually 'emerges' from an image, for example where the viewer mentally connects different elements in a photo into a familiar shape or form (triangle, circle, etc)

    FWIW, I first came across 'gestalt psychology/psychotherapy' many years back during a course I did. Years later - having taken up photography - I came across Gestalt again in Michael Freeman's book " The Photographer's Eye".


  13. Ah! But then you call it a "study" or "etude":rolleyes:
  14. George Orwell, in his essay, "Politics and the English Language," offers several rules to improve one's writing. His final rule is, "Break any of these rules sooner than say something outright barbarous." I think the same applies to photography--break the rules when appropriate.
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  15. Guidelines are generalizations. Without taking the individual photo or sometimes the body of work into account generalizations are useless. Good assessment and suggestions require customizing. No rule no guideline covers you and me and others. Posing the suggestion that you use the rule of thirds, don't cut off limbs, don't clip highlights, eye movement should move left to right, etc - all bogus as guidelines to improving photos. What works for one photo does not for another. Your voice and experience and photos differ from mine ... that makes it interesting.

    what we see is what we are

    • A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed. There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs. Ansel Adams
    • The eye should learn to listen before it looks. Robert Frank
    • Photography is still a very new medium and everything must be tried and dared. Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. It’s the result it counts no matter how it’s achieved. Bill Brandt
    • I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse. Diane Arbus
    • To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk. Edward Weston
    • The formula for doing a good job in photography is to think like a poet. Imogen Cunningham
    • I’ve never felt that I should conform to any particular set of rules. Moriyama
    • Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work. William Klein
    • The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer. Robert Mapplethorpe
    • The mystery isn’t in the technique, it’s in each of us. Harry Callahan
  16. Also!
    Practice, Practice, and more Practice.
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  17. I suppose if you had a Guru, a mentor guide, they would take you to a special place in your photography.

    Never happened for me; I suppose a Guru never felt I was worthy. I just press the big button and hope for the best.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2022
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