In my previous post I wrote about my personal hesitation to follow any genre based photography. My message was, in short, that I'd rather follow my own photographic vision than try to reproduce what others have already done before (though I am sensitive for influences like anyone else). Ok, but what about the rules of photography then? Do I think one has to learn, for example the rules of third, and follow them to become better photographer or is just enough to have 'vision' and be able to push a button?
To be honest, I don't put too much emphasis on the rules in my photographic process. But on the other hand I don't want to neglect them or their value either. I have a background in graphics design (though I haven't done it seriously for some time) and it has taught me that 'rules' are more like 'theories' or 'hypothesis' which one can use to brighten the initial vision. If needed, I can make a laborious and integer based grid-design a la Willi Kunz or Josef Müller-Brockmann, but I often don't. Instead I go with a feeling and only afterwards I might polish everything to perfection by creating a grid design that aligns everything in perfect relation to each other. To translate this into photography, one could say that photography has to start with a vision, an initial idea of what one is trying to achieve, and different kind of rules can then be used, for example, to try out different compositions, but they cannot have intrinsic value on their own – otherwise they would shadow the initial idea. Sometimes things like composition problems are solved by leaning on the popular rules, but more often things require a certain psychological eye to make them work in a right way. I believe this is because every picture is an individual case where there might be emotions, relationships and coincidences to be solved. Having these theories called 'rules' is helpful in the beginning, but in the end one has to learn to fly without relying them too much. Solving different pictures is a great way to develop one's photographic eye – and you could start by reading this interesting article about the rule of thirds written by Tavis Leaf Glover. Highly recommended!