The Rules of Art (and photography) - I'm gonna tell them to you

Solarflare

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Art, to me, is defined as "creativity". *Any* form of creativity is thus art. And as such, photography is definitely a creative challenge and thus definitely art.

On the other hand, I do not care if something is "serious" art or not. For example, I know a lot of "video games" that to me are pieces of art. That is, they display an impressive amount of creativity. But I strongly doubt any of these will ever be considered "serious art" no matter how high their quality would be.

So to me the question if something is "serious art" is like asking if a movie got academy awards. Theres plenty of movies with academy awards that I think are completely forgettable and many of my favorite movies never got any academy award. Heck some of the greatest actors of all times never got an award, for example Marilyn Monroe. A movie has just to be of the "wrong" genre to seriously reduce its chances for academy awards. Does it make these movies less of a piece of art ? I dont think so.
 

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The notion that someone must always know what rule they are breaking and why they're breaking it is absurd ..
Try not to make "the rules" any more than they are.

I think in most cases the more successful artists simply create a composition without any conscious recognition of any "rules". They have developed their artistic ability over time and through an educational process, whether it is formally administered or in self-education.

Additionally, their own selection process comes into play when "liking" one particular photograph enough to spend some time with it in post-capture editing and manipulation. Recognizing when something "clicks" is key to presenting one's own best efforts.

My reason (and presumably other people's reasons) for writing anything about learning and breaking the rules is to encourage artists to continue exploring and learning.
 

JoeW

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The first rule of Art is that there are no rules. Here is one example of breaking a photography rule. This man has most of his head cut out of the photo and most of his arm.

5427807738_ea0dd85703_b.jpg
Actually, this photo is a superb example of a number of rules (or guidelines or principles) of visual design/photography/art.
1. Use of limited DoF to emphasize/direct focus.
2. Emerging (ie: cut-off or only partially seen images) to help direct focus and/or create a feel or effect to a shot.
3. Use of blur (in this case, the smoke) to help show movement or make a picture more dynamic (people achieve a similar result with panning).
4. Use of color to direct focus and grab attention (the white smoke....brighter objects grab our attention, the blurred circles in the middle of the smoke).
5. Leading lines (no formal line draw but a great instance where the man's eyes take us to the middle of the smoke and the circles).
6. The dynamics of portrait vs. landscape mode and the choice to go with portrait.
7. Use of shadow to create character and texture (in the man's skin).
8. How the focal point follows the rule of thirds.
And of course I'm leaving out about another 20-30 rules about color, lines, exposure, and so on.

Frankly, I'd say you've done a damn fine job of following the rules with this picture. Understanding these rules/principles/guidelines (whatever in the heck we want to call them) helps to explain why this is such a compelling and effective photo and why it's art (as opposed to a snapshot).

You mentioned that you cutoff the head and that breaks a rule. Yes it does. And there's also a rule that you show only part of a person can convey movement or direct focus (as the person walks out of the photo or as in this case we follow their gaze). There's a rule about making pictures sharp and distinct and yet there are also rules about how a lack of sharpness can convey movement or mood to a picture.

Look, you can't follow all of the rules all of the time b/c they conflict. If you don't like the word "rules" than call them "design principles." You can't simultaneously use color and be all monochrome. You can't simultaneously be landscape and portrait. What being an artist is about is not being in the right place at the right time and effectively capturing reality. It's about choosing which principles/rules to emphasize. And that's why this is an art and not a craft. If you had chosen to make the man the focus of the shot (rather than the act of smoking or the cigarette smoke) than cutting off his head and body were a bad artistic choice in most cases. But if you'd gotten a full body shot including all of his head and his arm, it would have probably been a pretty boring shot of a man with his back to the camera (ho hum) rather than the magic of the smoke over the blurred colors (far more interesting) and the implied movement of the smoke from his mouth to the air communicated to us by his focus.
 

bribrius

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be a lot easier if you could stage all your photos. Then you can put what you want where you want it. Like in a movie, actors, built sets etc. etc. Imagine the opportunity when you could control everything in the photo at your whim. Short of that thinking. I spend more time taking snapshots than making art. Just how i roll.
 
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Bribrius you can - its what studio photographers do all the time. Heck you can even do it outside as well - sometimes you need lots of equipment and assistants and skilled models and such and also the right daytime conditions - its all doable - however the more complex it gets the more expensive.
 

bribrius

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Bribrius you can - its what studio photographers do all the time. Heck you can even do it outside as well - sometimes you need lots of equipment and assistants and skilled models and such and also the right daytime conditions - its all doable - however the more complex it gets the more expensive.
out of my league $$$$$$. I would love to spend two months planning a single shot though, just to see if i could come up with a masterpiece. The opportunity would be amazing. Almost like painting, but putting on the canvas what i want in real life. Making a entire scene, for real.
 

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It doesn't have to cost a fortune. Just do a simple still life.
 

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The first rule of Art is that there are no rules. Here is one example of breaking a photography rule. This man has most of his head cut out of the photo and most of his arm.

5427807738_ea0dd85703_b.jpg
Actually, this photo is a superb example of a number of rules (or guidelines or principles) of visual design/photography/art.
1. Use of limited DoF to emphasize/direct focus.
2. Emerging (ie: cut-off or only partially seen images) to help direct focus and/or create a feel or effect to a shot.
3. Use of blur (in this case, the smoke) to help show movement or make a picture more dynamic (people achieve a similar result with panning).
4. Use of color to direct focus and grab attention (the white smoke....brighter objects grab our attention, the blurred circles in the middle of the smoke).
5. Leading lines (no formal line draw but a great instance where the man's eyes take us to the middle of the smoke and the circles).
6. The dynamics of portrait vs. landscape mode and the choice to go with portrait.
7. Use of shadow to create character and texture (in the man's skin).
8. How the focal point follows the rule of thirds.
And of course I'm leaving out about another 20-30 rules about color, lines, exposure, and so on.

Frankly, I'd say you've done a damn fine job of following the rules with this picture. Understanding these rules/principles/guidelines (whatever in the heck we want to call them) helps to explain why this is such a compelling and effective photo and why it's art (as opposed to a snapshot).

You mentioned that you cutoff the head and that breaks a rule. Yes it does. And there's also a rule that you show only part of a person can convey movement or direct focus (as the person walks out of the photo or as in this case we follow their gaze). There's a rule about making pictures sharp and distinct and yet there are also rules about how a lack of sharpness can convey movement or mood to a picture.

Look, you can't follow all of the rules all of the time b/c they conflict. If you don't like the word "rules" than call them "design principles." You can't simultaneously use color and be all monochrome. You can't simultaneously be landscape and portrait. What being an artist is about is not being in the right place at the right time and effectively capturing reality. It's about choosing which principles/rules to emphasize. And that's why this is an art and not a craft. If you had chosen to make the man the focus of the shot (rather than the act of smoking or the cigarette smoke) than cutting off his head and body were a bad artistic choice in most cases. But if you'd gotten a full body shot including all of his head and his arm, it would have probably been a pretty boring shot of a man with his back to the camera (ho hum) rather than the magic of the smoke over the blurred colors (far more interesting) and the implied movement of the smoke from his mouth to the air communicated to us by his focus.

This is a good example of how 'Rules' develop.
People look at a successful image and try to abstract a set of Rules from the image that can be applied generally.
I think the reality is that contradictory rules can be abstracted from any set of successful images so the underlying truth is that the way successful pictures get created is so ambiguous that any attempt to make a rule that pertains 100% and all the time will fail.

Some people have 'it.'
Some people can be educated and trained to have 'it'.
Unfortunately many people don't have 'it', can't get 'it' and so end up copying what others have done so they essentially fake 'it'.
 

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