Rule of Photography

In Standard, Tips and Tricks by Patrick

Image © PhotoTraces

Anyone who has taken photography classes is familiar with all the rules that are thought and have been developed over many years to try and help improve our photography. Rules of course are made to be broken and there is no magical formula for making a great image.

What defines a great image? One that invokes a strong emotion in the viewer? One that is technically correct with exposure and light? I think it is simply an image that captures what you are trying to tell in your story and one that you like.

Here are 6 rules that are helpful in getting you started on making better images, but keep in mind that learning these is only a starting point and you can apply whatever you want as far as tweaking these to tailor the photograph to your needs. So without further delay, here are the 6 rules:

Rule# 1 – Reciprocal Rule

This rule is helpful for ensuring that you get sharp photographs when hand-holding no matter what focal length you are using. Of course if you use a tripod, this does not apply as it solves the proble.

1/focal length = minimum shutter speed

For instance, if you are shooting at 80mm, your shutter speed should be set to at least 1/80th of a second. In case you want to zoom in to 400mm, your shutter speed should be at least 1/400th of a second.

Rule# 2 – Sunny f/16 Rule

This is one of those photography rules that you just need in your memory bank because it is just super useful. The Sunny 16 Rule is a method of estimating correct daylight exposures without a light meter. It can also help you achieve the correct exposure of difficult subjects, such as very light or very dark subjects.

Sunny weather + f/16 + 1/ISO shutter speed = proper exposure

For instance, on a sunny day with ISO 200 and aperture at f/16, you should set your shutter speed to 1/200 or 1/250.

Rule# 3 – Lunar 11 Rule

The rule states that for photos of the Moon’s surface, aperture should be set to f/11 and shutter speed should be set to the reciprocal of the ISO setting.

The Moon + f/11 + 1/ISO shutter speed = proper exposure

For example, with ISO 200 and aperture at f/11, you would need to set your shutter speed to 1/200 or 1/250.

Rule# 4 – F/8 and be there

This really isn’t a rule per se, more of a statement if you will. It is widely recognized that f/8 is a sweet spot and safe aperture to emphasize the importance of taking the opportunity for a photo rather than being overwhelmed by various technicalities. The aperture of ƒ/8 is considered a great general-purpose aperture, something that never fails especially if you’re using a prime lens.

Rule# 5 – Inverse Square Law

Inverse-square law isn’t related only to photography. In physics, this law states that the intensity of an effect such as illumination or gravitational force changes in inverse proportion to the square of the distance from the source.

1/distance between light and subject2 = light on subject

This means that if we increase the distance between the light source and subject from 1 meter to 2 meters, 75% of light intensity is lost. However, if we increase the distance from 4 meters to 10 meters, we only lose 5% of light intensity. Basically in layman terms whenever you double the distance between the subject and flash, the subject receives one-quarter of the light.

Rule# 6 – Astrophotography and the 600 rule

This is handy to eliminate star trails. The exposure time in seconds should be 600 divided by the focal length of the lens you’re using.

600/focal length = maximum shutter speed

For instance, a 20mm lens could go to 30 seconds while a 300mm lens could go to 2 seconds. Of course, you can’t fully eliminate star trails but you can reduce them to an acceptable level so they are hardly visible.

Now is it nice to note that if dividing the focal length by 600, you can use 400 or 500 to obtain the time you need to make the photography look like your vision.

There you have it! Six commonly used and taught rule of photography that will hopefully help you on your way to making better images.

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