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Three Main Rules

Three main rules of photography (as I have been taught in New York Institute of Photography) are:

  • Theme - the photograph should have a general, universal theme. It should not be just the subject, well, actually it can be. But the photograph should convey a message or some story about the subject. But the subject should be well identified and clearly seen (i.e color subject in black and white photograph, size, when using wide-angle lens, or sharp focus against a blurry background - shallow depth of field).
  • Focus attention - by using different techniques the photographer draws attention of the viewer to the subject (i.e vignetting, framing or narrow depth of field, or you can lead the eye to the subject).
  • Simplify - a lot of details that do not help to tell the story will diminish the value of the photograph. The clutter draws attention of the eye from the subject and the eye cannot stay on the main subject, where it should. You may have heard that the painting is the art of inclusion, and photography is art of exclusion. Yes, try to exclude from the photograph as much as possible, but still tell the story or make the point and your photograph will be much better.

I will try to use the following example to explain the rules. I am not sure that this photograph is the best example of the rules, though.

A photograph of a jellyfish on an ocean shore
A teardrop of the ocean.

The picture above encompasses all of the rules explained on this page. What about the theme of the photograph and its subject? I think, it's clearly stated that the subject is the small jellyfish and the theme is about the sea or ocean. The story is in the tide, which threw away the small piece of life, may be even how far away it from "home" and safe waters. Sometimes a name of the photograph adds direction for thoughts and can be very helpful for unusual photographs. Though many famous photographers reluctant and even against giving the titles to photographs.

What about focusing attention? Ok, let's look at the focus of the image. What is in the focus, what is not? The jellyfish is in a sharp focus, but the ocean is blurred and distant. What else can we digest? The front plane of the image occupies the biggest part of the image and the eye is drawn to it, and there the jellyfish resides. So our eye doesn't wander in the image and doesn't leave (immediately).

Simplicity? The image is almost empty, there are only four "objects": sky, water, sand and the jellyfish. The people, gulls and even the sun was left out of the frame. So, the image is very simple and that adds space and focus to the eye.

And in conclusion, when all these rules are applied we have a very good photograph. [end of the text]

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