Breaking The Rules

Photography is full of many rules.  Learn when and how to break them in order to grow.  Throughout my career, many people have asked me for tips and tricks on how to become a better photographer.  Usually these requests as disguised as,

“What camera should I buy?”

But most of the time when people ask me that, I ask them what they are using to edit their existing photos.  Unfortunately, the answer is almost always nothing, or some free program. An easy fix.

Sometimes I’ll ask them about their general knowledge of photography…

  • rule of thirds
  • repetition of form
  • recognizing two dimensional shapes in the viewfinder

But if I ever explain those things to them, I’ll then tell them the most important thing…

Forget the rules and opening yourself up to chance.

About this photo: One of my favorite “chance” photos is this one where I forgot to bring a sandbag to weigh down my reflector. Since I didn’t have an assistant that day, the wind kept blowing over my stand with the umbrella. Instead of using nice soft diffused or reflected light for the fill on this golfer, I was forced to shoot the fill light at him full blast from a Nikon SB-800 speedlight. I would usually never use this sort of hard light for fill, but once I took a look at it, I loved it.


This “mistake” situation reminded me that I should not be so dedicated to my previsualized shot and instead be open to new crazy ideas that come to me in the moment.

Fashion photography has often embraced the “mistake” or “amateur style” in many shoots meant to mimic the loose mechanics of paparazzi photography.  Vernacular photography is similar in that is takes the ordinary or mundane photo and elevates it to high art status because of its very banal nature.

About this photo: For this photo shoot, I used a simple on-camera setup, dragging the shutter to bring in the colors of the room (lots of gelled ambient stage lighting). The frontal flash kept it solidified while the colors in the background could do their own thing. The idea is that you, as the viewer or as the photographer, are interrupting a different world.

The on-camera flash is often still listed as the number one sign of an amateur (usually a criticism leveled by advanced amateurs only).  But with the democratization of photography, everything is up for grabs if it is done well.

Photography is wide enough to encompass any style as art, even the style that used to be considered bad or full of mistakes.

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