Are the Rules of Composition Made to Be Broken?


I clearly have a new hobby, one that I am simply immersing myself into. It is a culture, one with a language in which people speak and I am expected to know. There are many nods of my head and bullshitting on my side and I make a note to look it up later. Instead I am going to admit my flaws for all to see, and if you think this novice is an indeed an idiot, so be it, but my goal is someone can learn where I chose to do the research on my own.

My question is: Are the rules, especially when considering the minimalist approach to photography, occasionally made to be broken?

One theory: Nothing can be broken until you have mastered them.

So, easy rules of composition:

  •                The golden mean and its simplified rule of thirds- Once you know what your subject of the photograph is going to be, imagine, or apply the tic-tac-toe approach through your viewfinder. Where the lines actually intersect through the viewfinder, or would intersect, is where the rule of thirds applies. The rule of thirds suggests that the points of intersection are the best places to position your subject. Doing so will greatly improve your odds of a more pleasant picture to look at and a more balanced composition. Try different compositions until you find the one you like best, the same gridlines can help you keep your horizons level and the vertical elements in your photo straight.
  •              Where to place the horizon line- Most pictures look better if the horizon is positioned above or below the middle of the frame, not directly in the center of the image. The exception is when shooting a reflection. In this case having the horizon in the center can work well because it creates equal elements at top and bottom—the scene above and the reflection below.
  •                Lean Into the Frame- When photographing people and animals it’s best to have them looking into the frame. If there’s action in your picture, leave more space on the side of the frame where the action is headed. It looks more natural that way and lets the viewer have a feel for where the subject is going.
  •          Leading Lines- When photographing buildings or other strong linear subjects, compose your image so that the architectural elements lead the viewer’s eye through the photograph. These “leading lines” lead your eyes through the image—sometimes even out of the image. These lines can be the main subjects of the image, or they can be used to lead your viewer to a specific area within the photo that is an important focal point. In addition to straight lines, curves also make interesting compositions. They serve a purpose in bringing the viewer’s eye throughout an image. Curves can be the main subject, or as with leading lines, they can be a means of leading the viewer to different subjects within an image.▪               Depth- Photography is a two dimensional medium, and we have to convey the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create this by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognises these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

    ▪               Balancing Elements- Placing your main subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds creates a more interesting photograph, but can leave a void without including another object of lesser importance to fill the space

    ▪               The rule of odds- for some reason, items grouped together in odds (three strawberries rather than two) give you a shot that’s more interesting and easier to focus on as those that surround it automatically frame the middle element.

    ▪               The rule of space- This rule states that if the subject is not looking directly to the camera, or looks out of the frame, there should be enough space for the subject to look into. This technique creates intrigue in the minds of the viewers. Moreover, studies show that people viewing this kind of image will naturally look at the area where the subject is looking at.

    But after mastering them can they be broken like a philosopher or academia?

No, Put simply, the more instinctive the composition process is, the better the photographer.

Rule of Space in Photography (

10 Top Photography Composition Rules (

5 Easy Composition Guidelines ( :

The Minimalist Photographer (


2 thoughts on “Are the Rules of Composition Made to Be Broken?

  1. […] Are the Rules of Composition Made to Be Broken? ( […]

    • I say no, but it merely my opinion. The rules were made before modern photography. My mother is completely unaware of every rule yet when I showed her two photographs side by side, one following the rules, the other blatantly ignoring them or ignorant to them, she is always drawn to the photograph that follows the basic rules of composition, it was fascinating. I repeated this and the pattern continued. Yes, I did do this in the form of an experiment to be sure it wasn’t happenstance (I am excellent in market research and showed no favoritism toward either). So after the research for my post, and the experiment, (maybe I will do a bit more research) I do not believe the rules of composition with art and photography should be broken. The argument started with can the rules be broken for minimalism photography but soon morphed all together. Exceptions, but I still believe no in most cases.

      What is your opinion?

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