Photos of the Week

Photos of the Week: Creative Portraits That Break Photography Rules

May 20, 2024

By Hillary Grigonis

New photographers often learn the craft by developing an understanding of basic photography rules, like the Rule of Thirds and the exposure triangle. But often the images that speak to us are ones that break the rules. These images don’t have a complete disregard for those rules, but rather understand why those rules work — and then break them to achieve a certain feel.

We asked some of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars to share how and why they choose to buck traditional photography rules. Find unconventional inspiration in this week’s Photos of the Week for May 20 by Darren and Shamakia Williams, Parker Selman, and Marie Thibault.

Darren and Shamakia Williams, DSW Photography

© DSW Photography

When the couple wanted a location that represented New York City, Darren and Shamakia Williams of DSW Photography decided to shoot at the iconic Brooklyn Bridge. But like many iconic locations in the big city, the photographers and to work with the crowds. Instead of trying to Photoshop them out, they used motion blur to use the crowd as a tool to draw the eye to the couple. The shot was captured with the Sony A7R V and the Sony 24-70mm G Master lens.

“The goal is always to follow the photography rules,” the photographers explain. “However, we wanted to work with the scene rather than against the scene. We wanted to isolate the couple using the movement of the crowd on the bridge. The advice we will give to new photographers is to learn the rules but don’t allow the rules to restrict your creativity. By knowing the rules, you can determine which to break for creative purposes and which to apply to the image to create a creative and competent photograph.”

Parker Selman, Parker’s Pictures

© Parker’s Pictures

Film photographer Parker Selman of Parker’s Pictures wanted to exemplify the 1960’s TWA Hotel for this shoot. She captured several images of the couple against the arches with her main camera, even though it had started to rain. But one of the ways Selman continually improves her work is by always shooting a “bonus roll” of film where she tries a new technique or uses a toy camera. This shot was a little of both, using a double exposure technique on the Holga 120N and Porta 400 120 film with a pop of light from a Canon Speedlite to give the subject more dimension.

“Sometimes the best photos are accidents that come from experimentation,” she says. “I like incorporating toy cameras, double exposures and intentional light leaks into my workflow on a small scale by trying out one new skill at every wedding I shoot. I view this as a “bonus roll” of film that I am paying for myself. Sometimes the results are fantastic and I can add a new skill to my repertoire, and sometimes it’s a risk that doesn’t work out. That’s my advice to new photographers — constantly try something new — but not at the expense of your clients or your typical work flow.”

Marie Thibault

© Marie Thibault

France-based wedding photographer Marie Thibault (@marie.weddingphotographer) captured this shot after being inspired by the unique light. Instead of centering the subject or using the Rule of Thirds, she let that inspiration take center stage, allowing the play of light and shadows to take up a majority of the frame. She captured the shot with the Canon 5D Mark IV and a 85mm f1.4 lens.

“I don’t follow any specific rules when I photograph,” she says. “I shoot by instinct based on what’s in front of me: a landscape, an object, a person. I love lines, especially when they are straight and upright, but I also enjoy challenging my beliefs about framing, depending on what I want to convey. I believe everyone should create their own rules, as long as they make sense.”

Dig into our Photo of the Day archives for even more timeless photoseye-catching wedding photos and portraits. Submit your wedding, editorial, documentary and other interesting imagery (up to 5 images at a time) to:

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