December 27, 2017

Rules vs. Emotions: Which Is the Best Tool for Cinematographers?

Do good compositions come from following the rules or following your heart?

Whether you make music videos, commercials, feature films, or wedding videos, there is a high expectation put on you to create beautiful imagery. But, perhaps you didn't know how to do this right off the bat, so you set out to educate yourself. Maybe you went to film school. Maybe you attended a class or seminar. Maybe you sat in a quiet corner of a library and read book after book about framing and composition until you understood aesthetic conventions like the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Ratio, and center framing.

While these "rules" of composition are helpful and more often than not deliver on their promise to provide you with a decent-looking image, are they the best way to approach composing and framing shots? Is there something that maybe the classes, lectures, and books couldn't teach that would help us all create better, more dynamic and beautiful images? As he points out in this video, Sareesh Sudhakaran of wolfcrow seems to think so.

So, which is it? Should you be following the "rules" of composition or your heart? I'm sure the answer to that is "both." 

Being told that there are set rules for composing an aesthetically pleasing image is like telling a painter they can only ever use primary colors to paint. Even though blue, green, and red are incredibly important (they essentially form the foundation of every other color), they are but a guidepost on the path to creating art. 

Allowing there to be flexibility in art is important, regardless of which side of the fence you're on. If you like feeling your images when you create them, do it! If you like following a structured set of rules, do it! Just keep in mind that all of these rules, guidelines, conventions, and laws of composition are actually just suggestions. Sure, many times they work to make pretty pictures, but remember that you're not in the business of "making pretty pictures." You're in the business of telling stories, and sometimes you have to venture off of the beaten path to find the words to tell them.     

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