The Trouble With Rules

Seabird Husavik, Iceland

Question: When is it all right to place your primary subject in the middle of the frame?

Answer: When it works best for you to do so.

The Trouble With Rules

The Rule Of Thirds and the Golden Mean help photographers arrange the scenes they photograph into compositions that make sense. Photography 101 likely warns against placing the subject, like the horizon, in the middle of the frame. But there are times when it simply is the right thing to do.

Rules are okay as a starting point, but were never designed as a be all and end all. There should always be a reason why we do what we do. Composition, for all its merit, must be driven by something other than rules.   

Message and Meaning Dictate Composition

If your photograph is all about balance, symmetry or stability a central position is likely the best position for your subject (or horizon) to reside. It may not produce the most dramatic result, but it will help you communicate the mood you're wanting to explore.

A Day At Sea

This photo was made in northern Iceland. I was returning from a whale watching cruise and made the photo as our ship was coming into harbor. I remember being intrigued by the patterns on the water caused by the warm/cool pools of color and the black water that separated them.

There is no horizon of which to speak. Yet the sea bird draws the eye to the centre of the frame. This middle ground is further emphasized by the demarcation, from top to bottom, in the frame made by the different patterns in the water that occur either side of the bird.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru