A visually appealing image is equal parts creativity, mathematics, and intuition. There are many concepts that teach us how to assemble elements within a frame to give it the maximum amount of aesthetic energy—the rule of thirds, symmetry, balance, etc.—but they certainly aren't the only ways to make that happen. Photographer James Allen Stewart shows us how to break the rules of composition in this interesting video:

Stewart highlights two major ways one can deviate from classic compositional rules, namely the rule of thirds:

Balance between light and dark

Consider for a moment the denseness of light and dark elements—light elements seem to "weigh" less than dark elements. This quality of "weight" does interesting things to an image. For instance, say all of the darks gather on one side of the frame; your image will feel "heavier" on that side, creating the illusion that the image is being pulled down in that direction.

WeightThe dark elements on the right side of this image seems to "weigh down" that side, giving the image an uneven feel.

BalanceAdding more light elements to the left side of the image brings balance to the composition.

This is an important concept to understand, because according to Stewart, the rule of thirds becomes less important to composition if these two elements are balanced within your image.

Direction/The Story

This is probably the most interesting concept Stewart introduces, that since we tend to "read" or "write" an image from left to right, you can compose your image like you would a story, with a beginning, middle, climax, and end. Consider the following images:

RightIf the "climax" of your story is the woman's eyes, it occurs too early in your "story" and not only gives your viewer no where to go afterward, but it leads their eyes back to the beginning of your visual narrative.

LeftHowever, when the climax occurs later, it allows your viewer to survey the image more naturally, letting the image to unfold as would a good novel.

You may agree or disagree with Stewart's assertions about composition. What works for one image may not work for others, nor for the entire film as a whole. But I think it's worth learning about because the more tools you have in your arsenal, the better equipped you'll be when composing your shots.

Source: James Allen Stewart