Saturday, August 13, 2011

"I'm Breaking All the Rules I Didn't Make"

So *that's* what you're doing? Silly me! I simply thought you didn't have much of a clue WTF you were doing. Thanks for clearing that up! I don't mind admitting being wrong when I'm so obviously wrong.

Sarcasm aside, if that's what you're doing, breaking all the rules whenever you shoot, and if those are your photographer's "words to live by," odds are the vast majority of your work sucks. I'm not saying that because I'm down on breaking rules. I'm also not saying breaking all the rules or some of the rules doesn't produce incredible images, leastwise, on occasion. I'm simply saying it because, for the most part, it's true.

There are many ways to define all this rule-breaking. These days, one of the most popular is to label it as shooting "outside of the box."

There's much to be said for rule-breaking and shooting "outside the box." It can be fun, challenging, rewarding, and fulfilling. Especially, when the moon, stars, and the planets all line up perfectly and your "outside the box" endeavors deliver an awesome photo! That's why more than a few of today's "photo gurus" preach the gospel of shooting OTB. To be honest, most of them preach other gospels as well, but OTB is often one of them. Unfortunately, if you're nearly always shooting as a devout follower of the Gospel of OTB, I have three words for you: Let us pray.

There are, of course many good reasons for shooting OTB. Here's one of them: Let's say you're a new-ish and/or mostly inexperienced shooter. As such, much of your work likely isn't overly memorable unless you're some kind of photographer-prodigy. No offense but consistently producing good work -- and I stress the word "consistently" -- usually requires practice. And more practice and more practice on top of that. Still, let's say you haven't put in much time practicing and honing your shooting skills. No problemo! When someone has the audacity not to bestow those ego-stroking kudos and attaboys on you and your work, perhaps they even (shudder) criticize it, all you have to do is respond with something like this:

"My work is outside the box. I don't feel I need to conform to the rules. That's how I shoot. I can't help it if you can't recognize or appreciate art when you see it!"

How cool is that? Instant justification and a bona fide defense even if it's also instant and bona fide bullshit.

Here's the raw, no bullshit, bona fide truth: Although shooting OTB sometimes yields great photos, shooting "inside the box" is more likely and more often the way to snag great snaps. What lies "inside the box" can be, and often is, just as exceptional, inspiring, and challenging as anything shot OTB.

I'm not discouraging rule breaking or shooting OTB or "pushing the envelope" or being (artistically) at the "leading edge" or whatever you want to call it. I'm just saying it's not the only way to stand out and be recognized and rewarded as a good photographer, glamour photographer or otherwise.

I can't recall a single instance or example where an "outside the box" photo I might have snapped -- and I believe I've snapped a few of them, maybe even a few pretty good ones -- was *the* photo that landed me more work or a new client or pushed my career forward in some notable way.

As usual, I'm just sayin.

Speaking of not being able to recall things, I can't recall the name of the pretty girl at the top and I'm too freakin' lazy to hunt it down or dig it out. Sorry. So shoot me already. I'm often just sitting here, inside the box, so I should be a fairly easy target to hit.


Alex Frazier said...


Dan said...

Great post. Too bad the people who need it probably won't pay attention to it.

Bill Giles said...

There aren't any rules, just reasons. There's a reason for the rule of thirds. That type of composition is more universally appealing. There's a reason for not shooting people with poles coming out of their heads. There's a reason for getting close to your subject and filling the frame or using a longer lens and filling the frame. We don't have to do any of these things. They just look better when we do.

Anonymous said...

@Dan - you're probably right I know a few who could use a lesson on shooting "ITB" vs "OTB". I know when friends ask me my thoughts on their work, I have to ask them first "do the want an honest critique?".

@Bill Giles - so true, which is why they are mentioned time and time again in publications, books, magazine articles, must have some truth to it.
When I conduct a nude photography workshop these are always brought up and taught, I do sometimes get others that will challenge it, but in the end they do see the difference and agree that the "rules" do have an edge.

good article, now lets hope our friends read it.