How many times have we heard that, or a variation of that? It comes from everywhere including inside our own heads. Eric Cartman said it best with: “Whatever, I do what I want!” Rules are pretty arbitrary, especially when it comes to art. It strikes me that much of the best art breaks with the status quo. Chances that coloring inside the lines will give us a final product beyond the outcome we already expected, and already have seen, are pretty much zero. I don’t claim to know how to take revolutionary photos, but I suspect it has to do with :
1. Having a camera at the right place at the right time and being ready.
2. Playing by your own rules.
Possibly my favorite genre of photography is street. For several reasons. But a big one is the lack of rules. Every time I hear an espoused rule from any street photographer, I tend to think of reasons I would break the rule. I’ve yet to see an official rule book for street photography. We all have habits and techniques and gear that all works well for us. Let’s not confuse these PREFERENCES with rules, regardless of where they come from. But we do. Frequently. I find these to be pretty popular:
– Wide angle works best, like 28mm or 35mm
– Deep focus
– We need cameras that do well in low light
– You should only shoot in one focal length
– Prime lenses are better than zoom lenses
– Small cameras are best
– B&W works better than color
– A body of work, or set of images, needs to have a cohesive look and feel to it
– Candid shots are best – shoot without anyone knowing you’re there
– Build relationships with your subjects – smile – introduce yourself, then shoot
– Street photos need people in the composition
I can understand all arguments in favor of these popular opinions. I may agree with some and use them in practice. But even the ones I agree with I might choose to ignore at times. Give me any camera, any lens, and I’ll take photos of any moments or subjects that interest me. Why not? Why would I let adherence to an arbitrary limit of opinion stop me from taking photos? Why would you? I love advice from the experienced, but it’s all filtered opinion, including mine.
We’re only doing it wrong if we let mental stigma stop us from taking photos completely. We’re only doing it wrong when it feels wrong to us, not when it seems wrong to someone else. If it feels wrong, we need to change some variables and repeat the process until it feels right.
Point the camera, compose the shot, click the shutter….Repeat.