Breaking The Rule Of Odds
Are you a prisoner of rules? Do you serve the rules or do the rules serve you? I have never been a fan of rules. Someone dear to me once told me that conventions are good, rules restrict.
A lattice supports the vine so it can grow, but it does not control the vine or tell the vine how to be a vine, it merely gives a structure. The same is true of a rule or convention.
The Rule of Odds
The rule of odds is a composition rule taught to many first year photographers and beginning enthusiasts. It is often taught on the heels of the rule of thirds. The rule of odds, as defined succinctly by Digital Photography School, reads, “The rule of odds states that, whenever possible, a composition should have an odd number of objects, not an even number of objects. So an image should have three flowers rather than two, and five people rather than four.”
The primary reason is that the human brain tends to pair things together and that can make a photograph less interesting. When you shoot in odds, the brain and the eye is forced to spend more time digesting the elements of the photo.
I use this as a guide or a convention when I shoot street or do product photography. With street I tend to look for individuals doing something interesting, or look for interaction between three people.
But if we stop at the rule, we never analyze the benefit. Three people, three apples, three puppies. Great! I have your attention, but what now? What have a drawn your brain into?
Triangles, a point, a pattern, someone dominant, contrast, tension, and on and on.
The rule by itself is meaningless unless you know why you have the rule. The why of the rule allows me break the rule to honor the spirit of the convention.
I watched them at the intersection waiting for the light to turn green. They were not together, but they were in close proximately about to do the same thing. She took a puff from her vape while waiting and carefree allowed her exhaled vapor flow everywhere, including him. She was engaged in her phone and and unaware of the affect of the world around her. He was aware and respectful of social distancing while outdoors.
The light turns green and they cross. I am not sure how she knew the light turned green. But as soon as it did, she walked on seemingly to never look away from her phone. He is looking both ways as he crosses. His stride is confident and hers is uncertain. There is more, but that is for you to analyze.
They are doing the same thing, crossing a street. They are a pair of humans, but there are contrasts and differences. There is tension, patterns, shapes (count the triangles, tell me how many you find), contrasts, leading lines and more.
End of the day, most people are not going to dissect an image I place on social media at this level. But when we make a photograph, when we compose, all of this and much more is in our minds and eye as we depress the shutter.
Allow conventions (or rues) to guide you to your vision. Let the lattice support you so you can grow as you will.
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