Break the rules

Foto Tip from Mark Alberhasky – Mark looks at how breaking the rules of photography sometimes is exactly what you need to do to create a killer image.
“Rules are meant to be broken.”

“Rebel” that I am (those of you who know me well are chuckling now), I can tell you that breaking some rules in photography is a good thing. It can help you get out of a rut, learn more about what your camera and computer are capable of, and most importantly lead to some WOW images.

We all know that photography is full of “rules” about how to do everything the “right” way.  Always shoot with the sun at your back, always use a shutter speed at least as fast as the focal length of your lens, always use a tripod for sharp pictures… the list goes on
and on.

But we all know (and even learned as kids) that following the rules doesn’t always cut it.  It’s as true in photography as in life.  So in this tip, let me encourage you to push your envelope and do something you normally would not do because “you’d always thought it was wrong.” Now use some common sense here, I don’t want anyone calling me because they thought they might get a special effect if they put the memory card in the camera backwards!

Seriously, if you

  • thought you shouldn’t shoot without flash in low light, do it
  • thought you shouldn’t shoot action handheld at 1/30 of a second, do it
  • thought you shouldn’t shoot with the highest ISO setting because of digital noise, do it
  • thought you shouldn’t shoot into the sun, do it (but be careful because direct sun could hurt your capture chip!)
  • thought you shouldn’t shoot without everything in perfect focus, do it…

By trying and not succeeding you will learn your limits.
By trying and succeeding you will learn sometimes you have not reached a limit.

Some of the most beautiful images ever made broke rules.  Yours may be the next one.

I was at the beach last week, strolling the waters edge near sunset. Shooting into or near the setting sun can give you fabulous back lighting, especially of water droplets in the air caused by splashing or wave action.  I came across a skim boarder, working the water 10 feet from shore, yet the light and action shooting toward the sun was fabulous.  I’ve attached my favorite to this piece, but you can view more at

Another axiom you should forget is, “you need good weather for good light”.  This might be breaking a personal rule (habit) for some of you who wouldn’t think about picking up your camera if the weather isn’t good.  Try it sometime, if there is light, go out in the rain under an umbrella.  Experiment.  Some of you may remember an image I made in similar circumstances.  It was first morning light in January, overcast, and cold, actively sleeting to cover everything in ice. Well, that image was recently among 150 images chosen from 27,000 international entries in the 2005 photography contest sponsored by The Smithsonian.  You can see it and the other images chosen at

Now, don’t tell your mother, but go and break some rules!

Mark Alberhasky

Mark Alberhasky photo of surfer

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