January 16, 2009

NEVER Center The Subject!

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 10-15-2007 750


Never center the subject!  Everyone knows that rule.

I don’t like rules and I don’t like being told what to do.  So I was taken aback when someone told me that my image of the Angel Gabriel (Click Here) didn’t work because Gabriel was centered.  I had to disagree, that’s exactly why the image works!

I created the image above last week in San Diego, at LaJolla cove, its title is “Opposition in all Things.”  Yes, I know it’s centered, and yes I know that breaks the rules!  It’s not a masterpiece, but part of it’s charm (in my opinion) is that it’s centered.  I like it like that.

I do readily admit that I’ve had this fascination with centering subjects for more than a year now, and I quite expect that I’ll have a new fixation next year.  That’s okay, but what’s not okay is not trying something because of some dumb rule.

There are lots of “rules” in photography and I’m not sure who declared them rules, but I like to think of them as “vague suggestions.”  Sure they might make sense some of the time, maybe even most of the time, but certainly not all of the time!

If you’re ever going to find your own style (and for me that’s what it’s all about) then you must not follow the rules.  A fun exercise is to deliberately go out and break some rules.  A few suggestions are:

*  Wear plaids and stripes together

*  Run with scizzors in your hands

*  Cry Wolf!

*  Center your images

*  Look in the mirror and say “I will ignore the rule of thirds”

If you’re looking for “Kodak Moment” then follow the rules.  But if you’re looking to create killer images, ones that grab and hold people’s attention, then break the rules and see what you get.  You might be surprised.


7 thoughts on “NEVER Center The Subject!

  1. Right on target! I think that reaching beyond (or violating) the “rules” often sets up the creative parameters for a truly outstanding image. I have several recent shots of tunnels that would probably be considered “centered” as well. I’ll send a few small shots of them by e-mail to prove I totally agree with you!

    “Opposition in All Things”… Nice shot!

  2. Love it! If anything, the fact that “Gabriel” is centered is what drew me to the image (other than the story itself, of course). You have GREAT insight on photography and your images are always something that challenge my mind with their simplicity and striking contrast.

  3. Something my photography teacher taught us in the late 80’s and has stuck with me:
    “Every rule is meant to be an aid. Once learned and explored, it is meant to be broken and refuted or used again. Once you have learned the rules, how to apply them, you can break them in creating successful art works , images or photographs. This produces a built in contradiction where even within a single piece, you use rules and and break them. Contradiction will keep you interested in the work because you are moving between a rule and its opposite. Rules and breaking them can lay the foundation for work remaining exciting and fun without the many destructive plateaus of being creatively frozen. The trick is to have refuted rules work in terms of expressing good composition.”

    …If I could only get the rules down pat!!! I could be a REBEL!!!!

  4. Yep agree with your post. Very Much.

    However, where is the ‘image above’? There are no images when I view your blog, just the text.

    Enjoyable stuff.

    Cheers from Australia

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