Breaking the rules

We’ve written before about rule breaking in photography, and how
that’s generally a good thing as long as the viewer knows it’s intentional. I was looking at a few photographs recently where there were obvious things that I thought were wrong, but I wasn’t quite sure if it photographer meant it.

It got me thinking if it’s harder to work out the intention with toy
photography than with other genres.

Toy photography is what I’d call a “starter” genre. Give a child a
camera and there’s a high likelihood that they’ll take some bad photos of toys. Adults new to cameras are probably more likely to take bad travel photos or family portraits, because that’s a popular grown-up excuse to buy a fancy camera.

Given the skew towards younger photographers when it comes to toy photography, does this change the balance of good vs. bad photos? (I’m making a generalisation here that younger, and less experienced photographers take worse photos than older, more experienced photographers, which is not always the case).

If the balance is skewed towards bad photos then we have to be a bit careful when breaking the photographic rules. If our viewers are used to seeing bad toy photographs, the probability is that they will assume our carefully orchestrated compositional anarchy may just be “another bad toy photograph”!

I’m not sure if my assumptions are true, it probably needs some scientific method applied to a bunch of photographs from different genres. Still, I thought it was an interesting question.

To end on a solution rather than an open ended question, I replied to
Kristina’s post with my thoughts: know the popular rules, only break
one at a time, and try to make the rest of the elements in your photos as good as you can.

I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

– Mike
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John Steffens
8 years ago

Part of my style as a toy photographer and a lomographer, is using cheap toy cameras. This helps challenge you, taking you out of the digital “camera does everything for you” style.
I really don’t think there are “bad” toy photos.
Everyone has a different style and compositional element in order to tell a story with their toys.

8 years ago

Hmmmm, during the last three months I’ve heard about the rules. As you may tell by looking at my pics I hardly followed them. The advice to break only one at a time is a good one- still I’m wondering: What ARE the popular rules? Are they listed? Or how can I – an absolute amateur – be sure I only broke one and did my best to follow the others?

8 years ago
Reply to  Balakov

Thank you, Mike!
This post and comments discussed sort of gave me an idea of getting to the core of this subject. (Which is quite a relief for me as often I fear I lose something in translation.) I’ll try to consider these ‘aspects’ (as an alternative word for rules) and may just make the stubborn kid in me accept that ‘planning’ is an important part of this game in order to achieve more satisfying results. We’ll see…

8 years ago

TL;DR: If I had to summarize my whole point it would: “I think a good picture is one where there’s an interesting story supported by a strong composition, no matter whether it follows rules or not.” I would tend to think that if people can’t make a difference between bad photos and one where the photographer tried to intentionally break a rule, it means that it turns out that maybe it was not a very good idea and that the photo is not that good in the end. Of course it can happen that most people don’t understand it but… Read more »

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