More than just arranging the elements in an image
Some of the so-called "rules" of composition presented here should be considered as guidelines. They are based on recreating similarities in the make-up of many different images that many people have found to be esthetically-pleasing. We do not intend that a rule of composition or a design concept be taken as a hard and fast rule that must be observed. Besides, some renowned photographs violate all the rules of composition and are still excellent pictures. This doesn't mean that the rules are without value. They are tremendously valuable. They are time-proven, and provide great guidelines for photographers at any level. We use them all the time.
ORIGIN OF THE RULES OF COMPOSITION
Years ago, artists who had been born with an innate sense of design created works that were perceived, by other skilled artists, as having good composition. Not only that, but their works were very popular with the general public and art afficionados. Analysis of such works showed patterns and trends in the organization and inter-relationships of lines, shapes, forms and colors that were recognized as contributing to the effectiveness of the works. It was found that others could employ these patterns as techniques in improving their own works. When they were defined, they became known as the rules of composition.
FOLLOW THE RULES UNTIL YOU KNOW WHEN TO BREAK THEM
We hope in this section to help everyone to compose better pictures, but especially the person who has no idea of composition - the photographer for whom taking a picture means just picking up a camera to point it and shoot it with little thought for the arrangement of the elements in a scene. Such a person would rarely be pleased with the results of his or her normal photography, and could benefit enormously from an understanding of the elements of composition.
Anyone who has an interest in improving their pictures would do well to go through this section and use the tips and hints it contains in their photography to see if their pictures improve.
By religiously observing the principles of composition, they will become firmly cemented in your mind. Employing them will become second nature to you. If you don’t find there is an improvement in your pictures and people aren’t commenting on how great they look, we will be greatly surprised.
Once you have the rules of composition down pat, experiment and break a rule here or there when you feel the image will work better without it. That’s called individual style, and the creativity that stems from it produces some great images. The point is that you will know when to break a rule of composition once you know what the rules are and how they work.