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Book Review: “The Rules of Photography & When to Break Them”

A casual stroll through Barnes & Nobles is more like a bee-line to the photography section for me. I go through each title, grazing over the how-to manuals and idiot’s guides–searching for something that is relevant to me, what catches my eye, and something I know I’m going to read.


I pick my books, plop down in a deserted isle (normally the dirty romance novels section) and start sorting my stack of selections into, ‘absolutely need,’ ‘way too boring,’ or ‘maybe later when I’m a billionaire.’ Last time I went, I purchased three books from my absolutely need pile–but one of them stood out to me immediately as the, ‘I’m going to read this the second I get home.’ “The Rules of Photography & When to Break Them” by Haje Jan Kamps.

Maybe it was the bright primary colors on the front cover, or the awesome use of typography and photo placement throughout the book that set it aside for me visual, but once I dove in to the book it was fun and easy to read. The writing in the book is very casual as if a good friend is going over the basics with you. The book is encouraging, each chapter promises to build upon the previous with more tips and facts to advance your knowledge.

One section in specific that really caught my interest was the section on guiding lines. These are superficial or manmade lines, placed dynamically within the frame that direct your eye where to go. Imagine looking up at the sky, and seeing a jet stream behind a plane. That stream creates a line for your eye to follow. The line gives balance, symmetry, or asymmetry–and describes and conveys a message. First it describes the use of guiding lines, and how they’re common and useful, and then explains that sometimes it’s okay to break the rules of guiding lines and embrace chaos.

The whole book is filled with jewels like this–a reinforcing and empowering guide through the basic and then more advanced rules–and then fully deconstructing the reasons why we use them and explaining how they don’t always need to be employed. It’s so useful to have something sitting there, encouraging me to break the rules, and giving me a guide on how to ‘properly’ break them and embrace abstract individuality.

I would definitely, and have definitely, recommend this book to anyone interested or fully emerged in photography. The basics are always nice to go over again, but then flipping them upside down on their heads and learning why they’re not REALLY necessary is awesome.

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