Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Rule of Thirds

Okay, for the next two hundred and fifty pages or so I am going to explain why camera club photographers are so hung up on the Rule of Thirds—I generally preface that as the asinine rule of thirds. 

Let me start by saying that if you think there is something special about the rule of thirds that is okay. There is nothing wrong with that. But it would be best if you avoided reading the rest of my comments. I simply have a different way of seeing photography.

Actually it will not require two hundred and fifty pages, only one paragraph of one sentence: 

Photography is hard.

It is very hard. The easier cameras become to use the harder photography becomes. To move beyond a picture taker who does point and shoot [which incidentally does not require using a point and shoot camera—an expensive DSLR will work just fine for point and shoot] requires learning not only camera technique and post processing; it requires understanding the visual language of photography and being able to use that language. 

Because it is hard some people look for short cuts like the rules about thirds, rules about subject placement, rules about the horizon line, rules about color, depth of field, sharpness—a lot of very simplistic formulas for creating simplistic, mediocre and boring photographs. These people are not photographers—they are rule bound picture takers. I would go so far as to say they never see photographs. They don’t look to see photographs; they look to see rules or infractions of rules. Some people never understand what a disservice they are doing to their creative energies, abilities when they become embroiled in these rules. Some will never ever get past them. They will be destined to lifetimes of imitating the clich├ęs that have been done millions of times before. Nothing, absolutely nothing that adheres to rules comes any place near being art—never has, never will.

There is purpose in these rules with the following caveat: for beginners. They do help the beginning photographer who is so overwhelmed with all that has to be learned. It is baby talk to be set aside as the photographer becomes more knowledgeable.  No one should be doomed to baby talk their entire lives yet photographers seem very willing to give themselves up to nothing less. I used to refer to these rules as the conventional wisdoms I have decided they are really the conventional impediments. They stand in your way of ever realizing what photography is, of ever discovering your personal vision.

As long as you look at only photographs produced by camera clubbers or on the Internet forums you will never understand that is not photography—it is very imitative, very formulated mediocre picture taking. If that upsets you or makes you mad; that’s too bad. No, it’s sad. If I am stepping on toes you have a choice, look to a different source for your photographic inspiration—inside yourself, to the history of photography, to the work that led up to today’s photography, to writers that talk about the meanings of technique rather than how to achieve techniques. 

I started this group for those that want more from their photography. It is a waste of the time to argue with those that think there is something special in the rule of thirds.

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