I feel I have a very long way to go as a photographer and am nowhere near where I want to be, but I do feel I have accumulated enough experience to start discussing some larger ideas in depth. A question I often ask myself is, "Why do snap shots look so bad?". And the flip side would be, "Why do professionals images look good?" I sort of think that photography on a foundational level has more to do with avoiding the bad than on seizing the good. I think snap shots are rich with heart, good intentions, can have candid moments captured, nice locations, etc. But for some reason they often look like a hobo ate a piece of lustre paper and this is what came out of his ass. My idea is that there are a ton of strict "WHAT NOT TO DO" rules in photography, and if enough are amassed on a single image, the image becomes more or less a failure. Perhaps the number of 'things to avoid' is higher than in other visual mediums. Photography closely mimics human perception and when we tend to stray from that, it tends to unsettle the viewer. An example would be a crooked horizon line. If I tip my head from side to side, the horizon line remains relatively "level" in my field of vision. If I look at an image of a skewed lake horizon, I tend to think the photographer is mentally challanged. Maybe because of this closeness to perception we make fewer allowances, than with other mediums. Also we are probably exposed to hundreds to thousands of highly polished, still images every day and from that the bar is raised on what to expect from any image presented to us. Here are a few random things to avoid in photography (in general): •tilted horizon in landscape photography •don't cut off subject at the limbs •don't use a bare on camera flash. It doesn't mimic anything in nature. •reflections in eye glasses •centering your subject •dark eye sockets •busy in focus backgrounds for portraiture •side lighting for people with skin problems •shooting everything from standing eye level •subjects square to the camera •no catch lights •keystoning in architectural photography •lighting overweight subjects with broad lighting •having subjects shadow fall on wall behind them •things behind subject that look like they are sprouting from subject plus a thousand more for each type of photography: people, landscape, architecture, still lifes/objects, etc. And of course these things can be broken to amazing effect. But I am putting forth as things that get people in trouble a lot of the time. So when I am about to take a shot, I am at a point where I am running through a very large list of things to avoid, because I feel even the smallest thing will severely degrade my image. It is an organic process, after I think I have eliminated the 'no-no's' I will then shift to improving the image and from there will go back to looking for potential mistakes. So again, I am thinking that good photography on a foundational level might have more to do with avoiding a long list of mistakes than with things you should do. And that a very small number of mistakes can destroy an image bursting at the seams with good elements, since I believe photography holds a high bar due to its close ties to human perception and our daily saturation of professional images. Thoughts? p.s. I know people are going to reply that going by guidelines will make your images stagnant. Every medium has structure to it and is composed of things that work and is struggles to eliminate things that don't work. Every piece of architecture has common elements, walls, roof, support, etc. But from that can come the Taj Mahal or a trailer home. Look beyond the idea of guidelines for this debate please. My main idea is that between the principles of photography of things to avoid and things that work, the things to avoid are disproportionately stronger. Like a few drops of ink in a water glass will darken the entire glass of water. You can have an almost flawless image, but can be ruined by a few minor mistakes.