What makes a photo technically perfect? Should we always follow the rule of thirds or at an even higher level, use the golden ratio? Is ultimate sharpness what we should aim for? A few thoughts on going the wrong way.
Should we always stick to rules for composition? I found myself using the rule of thirds in the beginning of my photography, but now I basically eye ball all my photos. If it looks good, it’s great composition. However, some people get caught up in the technically perfect aspect, that it all starts to get a bit absurd. Look at these two photos. (Source: apogeephoto.com, Sarach Vercoe)
The photographer has claimed to utilise the golden ratio here. While I’m sure it’s very impressive, the subjects don’t quite fit into the prescribed sections and it looks more like a slightly offset rule-of-thirds. When have you ever looked at a scene and thought to yourself, “I’m going to use the golden ration here.”
Following the rule-of-thirds is a great way to get you started on the basics of composition, but guides like the one above are ridiculous. The best way is simply to go out and shoot, and analyse photography from skilled artists. Ask for constructive criticism from fellow photographers to see how your eye for photos is being trained.
These days I sometimes deliberately use an unconventional composition or a slightly odd composition because it changes things up. Why would you want to shoot 100 street photography photos with the subject placed on the left side of the frame following the rule-of-thirds?
Then what else makes a great photo? Sharpness? MTF charts are regularly talked about yet a friend once told me sharpness is overrated. Over time, I finally appreciate that aspect. What is important is relative sharpness. As long as the subject is sharp or sharper relative to the rest of the frame, you’re good.
Constraining yourself to certain conditions, composition or gear for the aim of the technically perfect photo limits yourself to what you can achieve in the present.
I wouldn’t consider the above a technically perfect photo. The car itself is slightly blurred from movement, the foreground is distracting and the background could be cleaner (signs, traffic). The composition is less than ideal as well.
However, I like it. The extra foreground in the photo gives it a greater sense of speed due to the flowing asphalt. The car with it’s slight blur simulates high speed and gives it a very candid feel.
So get out there and shoot, and don’t worry about creating a technically perfect photo. If it looks amazing, it’s amazing.