Screw the Rule of Thirds: “Composition” For Street Photographers

All images by Mason Resnik

“I’VE SEEN THIS PICTURE BEFORE.”

It may be cliché to say that rules are made to be broken, but it can be argued that the genre of street photography is the photographic discipline where breaking the rules will most likely allow you to see—and capture—more interesting photographs.

Traditional compositional rules come out of pre-photographic art forms. Leading lines, the rule of thirds, centered subjects and so on were developed over centuries by painters, and others using two-dimensional forms in order to organize the content of their images and create a common visual language.

Visual artists—painters, photographers, cinematographers and the like—are taught these rules and mostly conform to them.

 

 

 

 

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The Importance of Being Your Own Brutal Editor

I didn't see this photo for six months, and it didn't make a difference.

I didn’t see this photo for six months, and it didn’t make a difference.

There’s an oft-discussed approach to photography in which you go for several months to a year without looking at your photographs. This is easier if you shoot film, but requires far more diligence if you shoot digital. The mindset can be traced back to Garry Winogrand who famously would go for a year without looking at his negatives. The idea’s that it gives you enough distance between you and your photographs, so that you can be a more discerning editor of your own work. Eric Kim calls it “letting your photos marinate,” and while it’s a fine mindset to have if you have the luxury of time, it ultimately doesn’t matter whether you look at your images straight out of the gate or some time later.

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