Once you’ve mastered the basics of nature photography, learning how to break the rules can yield even better images. Here are three situations in which the exception to the rule might give you the best results.

1) The rule: Slow your shutter speed to give streams and waterfalls a silky look. How to break it: Use intentional blur somewhere other than water. When to break it: With a stationary subject, try zooming your lens in or out while you snap the photo, or use selective focus to make elements of a scene blurred (Lensbabies are great for this).

2) The rule: Always put the horizon one-third of the way from the top or bottom of a landscape. How to break it: Toss out the Rule of Thirds and place your horizon dead-center. When to break it: With a symmetrical landscape, such as a mountain and its reflection in a lake, a centered horizon may work best.

3) The rule: Nature photos should remain pristinely unpopulated. How to break it: Put a person in your picture. You might think that nature photos shouldn’t include any sign of human encroachment, but a well-placed person can help give your viewers a point of connection. When to break it: To reveal the scale of your subject, or to illustrate the interaction between humanity and nature, you’re going to want at least one person in the frame.
_—Kathleen Davis
Assistant Editor