Remember when you picked up a camera for the first time.  The joy you got taking pictures was in no small part a result of the freedom you felt happily snapping away at all that caught your eye.

But then you had to “learned” how to be a better photographer.  The rules.  The do’s and don’ts that everyone taught you with such certainty that you didn’t dare question their authenticity.

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

But following the rules isn’t always the best way to express your creativity and can squash the joy you once felt in the process.  So here are 5 Mythological Rules of Photography that you might want to BUST! for a little fun.

Rule of 3rds is the BEST and ONLY way to achieve focal points

The Rule of 3rds focusing method is such a popular technique that many camera viewfinders now “draw” those lines for you, but always placing a subject along and intersecting vertical and horizontal line can be SO BORING.  So the next time you shoot, try one of these “alternate” methods.

Selective focus – When shooting with shallow depth of field, you can choose which area will be in clear focus and which will result in a bit of blur.  The eye is naturally drawn to the area in focus.

Selective light – There is a reason we hide in shadows, it’s because we naturally look to the light.  This same concept is true for images, so “spotlight” the areas you want to emphasize and hide what you don’t in the dark.

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

Color – The eye will always be drawn to bright colors, and this is a great technique to creatively utilize.  Show one flower red in a sea of yellow, or selectively desaturate some areas to make other ones pop.

Repeating patterns – An object repeated over and over will stand out clearly at the subject of the image.  Use a row of animals all pointing in one direction to make the viewer naturally look in that direction.  Or have one object different in a field of repetition to draw attention to the unique.

Converging lines – Our focus will naturally be lead down a line in a picture.  This is especially true if two lines converge off to the distance.  Use that conversion point to position your subject for maximum effects.

Relative size – Size does matter in an image, and we will always look first to the object that is the biggest in the scene.  Use this creatively to position small objects closer to the camera making them appear disproportionally big.

Reflection – Similar to repeating patterns, the eye will naturally be drawn to something reflecting in water or on shiny surfaces.

Motion – It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s …..  Regardless of what it is, it will be the focal point if it appears to have motion.  A blur across the field, or panning to keep the subject in focus while blurring the background, is another sound technique.

Framing – The use of other objects in an image to create a natural frame around the subject is a final way to draw attention.  This can be accomplished using things a simple as two tree branches or as accessible as a models hands – the trick is just to box in the desired element.

You need a macro lens for great macro photos

Macro photography is about producing “life-size” images of tiny things.  Common wisdom says that to produce this you need a specialized (and expensive) macro lens and lighting. 

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

To bust this myth, try using one of two techniques.  First, buy a set of inexpensive extension tubes.  These are tubes that install between the camera body and normal lens and provide magnification at closer distances than you lens is rated for.  They come in 12mm, 20mm and 36mm (in ascending magnification) and can be used in combination with each other for added capability. 

Another option is to use the zoom lenses you probably already have in your camera bag.  Just back up and zoom in to capture those tiny subjects in their real life size.

Film is dead, Long live film

The DSLR killed the film camera.  Just another myth the DSLR camera makers want you to believe.  Many professional photographers are returning to film because they like the grainy look of the medium (sure you can add grain in post processing, but why?).  Dust off your old film camera, throw away your outdated film and buy some new rolls, and go shoot.

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

One of the things shooting with film does is make you slow down.  You no longer have nearly unlimited shots to take – you have 24 or 36 shots on a roll.  And processing is expensive, so you want to make each shot count.  Try shooting a roll and see if some of that joy of anticipation returns.

Never shoot in the mid-day sun

We’ve all been taught the “golden rule”, shoot in the hour just after sunrise or just before sunset for the magical light.  If not, then only shoot up until mid-morning or after mid-day because the high noon sun is HORRIBLE.

Says who?  Oh sure, if you take a photo in the traditional manner at high noon it will appear flat and unappealing, but you can also use that feeling to your advantage in an image.

Architecture – Building details are often best shown in full light.  It is difficult to show a building façade or tower when it is partially or full of shadows.  High noon can provide the even lighting required for such a shot.

Panoramas  – Ever try to shoot a circular panorama of a square with buildings in the morning or afternoon light?  One side will always be filled with shadows while the other will be in direct sunlight.  Planning to shoot these sites at mid-day will ensure all areas of the scene will have the same even lighting.

Photo © Karen Foley – Dreamstime.com

Sense of time and space – Sometimes you want to convey an environment with all of its harsh aspects.  Think of a desert scene or the realities of life on the streets.  Harsh, flat lighting of mid-day is perfect to help reflect a sense of space and tone.

You need to use a professional camera to get professional images We know the drill.   Never leave home without packing your DSLR – extra batteries and memory cards – and probably a few specialty lenses because you never know when that once in a lifetime shot is going to present itself. 

Photo © Joe Ferrer  – Dreamstime.com

But sometimes that bulky, professional camera is more a hindrance than an asset.  When shooting candid street photography, having a bulky, professional looking camera can be intimidating and off-putting to your subject.  Other times it can be downright dangerous to carry expensive looking gear into a neighborhood or event.

Smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras have become so advanced in quality and functionality they are sometimes a better option to have with you – so have one of these with you at all times instead, and still get that professional look.  After all, it’s the photographer not the camera that creates a magical photograph.

So the next time you are looking for a little creative jolt to your photography – bust a myth and create your own rules.

Karen Foley is a freelance photographer and frequent contributor to Dreamstime.com.  See more of her work at KarenFoleyPhotography.com.

Zoe Kickhefer
zoe@everydaylifes.com