Why We Shouldn’t Generalize Our Photography

When we generalize photography, especially for matters of composition, it works against us.

shouldn't generalize our photography Sam D’Amico’s Photography classes were voted the Best Art Class in Washington, DC.  

How Do We Generalize Our Photography?

We generalize or standardize photography a lot. And while having some standards in our work is okay,  it’s not OK when creating a unique photograph. Because a standard we apply to one picture will not apply to others we make. In other words, each particular photo should have its unique approach.

When making a photograph, some photographers use rules for their compositions. However, some generalizations, standards, and rules limit our curiosity, stifle our spontaneity, and muffle whatever we’re trying to say through our picture. One of the most usual ways we impose standards on our work is with rules of composition, especially the “rule of thirds.”

Why Do We Generalize Our Photography?

I think we use rules in our photography to make our work better. And while I’m a big fan of keeping some things simple, simplicity doesn’t always serve us, especially in composition.

For example, using the same camera settings, lighting, or posing, as many studios do, produces a visual sameness. Doing that generalizes and simplifies the lighting and posing and creates a cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach to portraiture. The studios photograph different people with different personalities, but because of the standardized approach to portraiture, all the pictures have the same feeling and look.

Why We Shouldn’t Generalize Our Photography

Photography is a medium to express facts or opinions visually. But misusing rules can lead to a stiff approach, resulting in images lacking spontaneity, originality, and variety.

No matter what we photograph, a good photograph is more than a simple set of rules.

A powerful photograph is created by studying the differences in the light we work with, how we think and feel about what we photograph, and then making a photograph that expresses our unique thoughts and feelings as a one-of-a-kind image. 


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