michaelrubin

How the Rule of Thirds Kills Creativity and Leads to Boring Photos

The most common method to teach photographic composition to novices is the "rule of thirds" — in short, divide the screen into equal thirds vertically and horizontally, and then place your point of interest on any of the cross points for a maximally pleasing image.

The Decisive Moment: What Henri Cartier-Bresson Actually Meant

The photographic master Henri Cartier-Bresson made some key observations about photography, translated as “the decisive moment” which is often (incorrectly) characterized as: "capturing an event that is ephemeral and spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of the event itself."

Seeing Versus Shooting as a Photographer

The photographer Dorothea Lange once famously said “A camera is a device that teaches you to see without a camera.” I always loved this quotation. Once you get good at shooting, you start to see the world like a photographer — you notice things, you notice light, you look slower, you take pictures in your mind. The camera saves them, but even without one, you see differently.

10 Reasons to Shoot Black and White Photos (and None are Nostalgic)

One of the more divisive positions that I find in photographers is their rationale for, or dislike of, black and white photography. “I love color,” I hear often. “I’m all about the colors.” Absolutely, color is cool. But I think the arguments in support of black and white are strong (some better than others!).

Synecdoche: The Essence of Photography

I was struggling through Caesar in 10th grade Latin class when I first heard the term “synecdoche” (although the term is from the Greek) — it’s a figure of speech where a part of something is used to represent the whole. Today, familiar synecdoche include “threads” to mean clothing, as in “dig these new threads I’m wearing.” Or “boots on the ground” when talking about soldiers. Or “she got a cool set of wheels” to mean a new car.

The Fundamental Building Blocks of Interesting Photos

My particular interest in photography aims for hitting certain notes in the image, regardless of content. So whether I’m shooting landscapes or my garden, friends at a party, or my kids on vacation, I’d say the approach is consistent.

8 Useful Ways to Describe and Measure Your Photos

A leading textbook on creative photography, released in 1980, devotes more than 90% of its 460 pages to technical considerations — how cameras and lenses work, darkroom procedures, lighting — and just a few pages to aesthetics and composition.

The Tenets of Neo-Modernism, A Way to Look at Creative Photography

After decades of studying the classic works of photography, I’ve determined there is a historic and philosophical bifurcation in the works created. For convenience, I classify all works as falling into one of two camps, and the group I’m personally drawn to — and one that I find most applicable in discussing current photographic creativity — is what I call “neo-modernism.”

My Unnatural Interest in Cracks

I can’t remember the first crack I photographed. But I remember the huge crack in the plaster on the outside of my apartment building in San Rafael after college.

My Journey in Photographing Nudes

This photo is Untitled (1977) by photographer Jerry Uelsmann -- it was my key inspiration. It took one curvy shaded line to make the rock alive and sexy. This was on the wall in my living room when I was 14 and I looked at it for countless hours.

Photography and Collecting

My father was the archetypal collector. He had dozens of cameras and optical devices. Tens of thousands of LP record albums, and eventually even more CDs and DVDs. There were always books, in particular series of books. And art books. He bordered on being a hoarder, but with great taste.

The Photo That Got Me Into Brown University

Around the time I was applying to college in 1980, Time magazine ran a short piece about the college application process (coincidentally, at Brown); in it, they described an applicant who had soaked her application in water, then let it dry completely, so it got warped.

The Future of Photography

After reading Stephen Mayes’ TIME essay on the end of photography I couldn’t help but respond. To begin with, his main proposition is that “in the future there will be no such thing as a ‘straight photograph’” to which I’d add that I’m not sure there ever really has been much of a ‘straight photograph’ although in recent decades the public has become increasingly aware of this.