The Art of Transgressing the Rules of Composition in Photography [Actualizado]

In today’s article you will learn how to break the rules of composition and why, but first I recommend you delve into the Photographic composition and know all the tricks and tips in this mega guide that we have prepared for you.

Every time we publish an article related to the basic rules of composition to achieve a correct photography There is movement in the Social Networks, as debates arise around whether to respect the photographic rules or if, on the contrary, they are made to be skipped. I love seeing the different opinions of some, defenders of respecting the rules, and others, detractors of any pre-established photographic rule.

I also want to share my point of view. First, go ahead that this is a completely subjective issue. There is no single true vision. All opinions here are valid. What I am going to expose here is only the way a server sees things. Whether you think the same or if you are of the opposite opinion, I will be happy to read your point of view in the comments below.


All rules have an origin. The rules of photography are not the whimsical inventions of over-creative photographers. Many of these rules find their origin in the human brain, in how we are made, in how we perceive things and how we feel about them.

Composition rules, for example, mainly seek to enhance the aesthetics of the subject and give it prominence by activating certain mechanisms in our brain. When you look at a photograph, the first thing your eyes focus on is the brightest areas. It is a fact. We are made like this. The composition rules, therefore, do nothing more than translate this brain behavior of the human being into a composition rule.

Other very basic rules, such as fill-in flash or RAW shooting, have their logic in making life easier for the photographer. They are not aesthetic fashions, but rather means to achieve a more successful photography. In the photographer’s constant struggle to capture light, any useful element is welcome.

The photographic composition rules they are the same that apply to painting since they are similar activities. Its observance generates images that are easier to understand by our mind. However, by breaking them on purpose we can also create attractive images. Let’s see some rules and principles of composition with examples of their compliance and non-compliance.

Beginning: Center of interest, directionality, law of the gaze, contrast, symmetry, law of the horizon.

Rules: Rule of thirds, rule of odds, simplification, focus limitation.

It is evident that complying with these rules does not guarantee a perfect photo, but we will ensure that it complies with certain canons recognized as having an aesthetic value. In this article we will see some examples that do comply with some rule and others of how to break it creatively.


My opinion: I love when people break the rules. There is nothing wrong with that. Now, with one, one condition: understand and master them first. If you don’t quite understand the logic behind a certain photographic rule and you quickly rush to break it, you run the risk of neglecting some important element in your photo.

Of course you can break any rules you want. You are the photographer, you are the creator, the artist, the owner of your little world. You can do whatever you want. If your photo succeeds, no one is going to question you for having broken a rule. But please, do not let the reason be ignorance and ignorance.

Find out. Know all the possible rules. Learn them. Practice them. Master them. When you reach that level, apply or skip them as your inspiration as an artist suggests.

Manual to transgress 10 + 1 rules of photography (with art)

And now, some ideas to break the rules.

1) Center of interest

Every image must have a strong point, a center of interest, a dominant place or area that ends up focusing our gaze. On the other hand, photos of repetitive or chaotic textures can be very suggestive without the need to have a defined center of interest.

Patterns without center of interest

2) Directionality

It is the quality of the image of directing the viewer’s gaze throughout the image following the lines that are in it. There are images that do not need to have directionality to be attractive to the viewer.

3) Law of the gaze

Although it is recommended to leave free space in front of the gaze or direction of the scene, sometimes directing the viewer in the opposite direction can give more strength to the scene. Leaving the gaze without space can help you enhance a feeling of anguish, overwhelm or lack of freedom.

Breaking the law of looking with an intention

4) Contrast

Differences in colors, tones or shadows and lights create masses that attract and repel each other and force the viewer to go through the image. On other occasions the total absence of tones or contrasts can be equally interesting. I leave you with a photo of contrasts and another without contrast

Light and shadow contrast photography Goodbye contrast

5) Symmetry

The absence of exact symmetry, in general, is more suggestive, since it is something that is not usually found in nature. Forcing symmetry can be captivating if done judiciously.

mirror symmetry

6) Law of the horizon

According to the rules, as a general rule, the horizon should never be placed right in the center of the frame. That is not to say that sometimes the center is not a good place for the horizon. It is a way of transmitting calm and stability.

7) Rule of thirds

If we make two vertical and two horizontal lines creating 9 boxes of identical size, intersections called points of interest are generated. If we place our compositional elements on these lines and intersections, the image will gain more strength; as you can see in the first photo, where the protagonist is the boat. However, sometimes it also works to place the protagonist right in the center, see the second image.

The boat as the protagonist in one of the points of intersection of the rule of thirds Composition with an element in the center

8) Rule of odds

According to this rule, a landscape with 3 or 5 trees is more attractive than with 4, for example. In our mind, the odd structures visually seem to have more strength. But there are cases in which this is not necessarily true, for example, when we achieve a symmetrical image with impact. Symmetry, logically, can only be even: a reflection corresponds to each element, so pairs of elements will always be seen.

9) Simplification

It is said that “less is more”. The same thing happens in the composition of images. A simple, straightforward image, with few well-placed elements, is usually very captivating. However, in other cases, the extreme complexity of a fractal-type image can hypnotize us even more, if possible, as occurs with the photo in section 1. Or a scene with a lot of information like the one analyzed by Jota Barros on his blog.

10) Focus limitation

Or selective focus, which consists of focusing only on a small portion of the image, coinciding with the center of interest and leaving the rest very (or totally) out of focus. In this way, the main motif is separated from the rest of the image, giving it more importance and concentrating the gaze on it. On other occasions it is not necessary to do this or it is even interesting to leave the entire image fully focused.

In landscape photography, it is common to find images that fail to comply with several of the principles listed so far, such as this photo of the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia.

It has symmetry, it has no specific center of interest, the horizon is in the center and it is fully focused and the photo maintains all its strength, right?

11) Other unwritten rules

In addition to what has been seen, there are some other unwritten composition rules that are also interesting to break.

As a general rule, the photos should not be moved, but the movement made on purpose, experimenting with it, in certain circumstances, can produce very suggestive and attractive images, such as the following:

When movement becomes art

The horizon must be, that is, horizontal, but at the same time that we make unusual frames such as high or low angle shots, we should experiment by tilting the camera, looking for directionality, intention, movement, imbalance. The result of this practice is sure to give good results.

Another element that is supposed to be present in images is an in-focus portion, but what if the entire image was out of focus? You can play to blur the entire image to evoke past memories or a future to come, a person who is moving away or one who is approaching.

If we combine blurring with movement and tilted framing, we can create very powerful images… or useless chestnuts 😉 . But isn’t that the fun of taking photos, trying something new every day and learning new ways to create?

As you can see, there is an image that contradicts each rule, what are they for then? Well, like the rules of metrics in poetry, they serve to have a pattern of creation. But as it happens in a trip, the road to reach the destination can be a boring highway, full of monotony. We all know that the most beautiful landscapes are off the roads, off-road.

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