Photography 101: Don’t Dismiss the Fundamentals

Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photography is about rules. But rules aren’t cast in concrete. Youth screams: Screw the rules, I’ll do it my way. I was young once and I understand the temptation. It typically springs from impatience but increasingly it comes from laziness.

Rules come about for a reason and reason is the operative word. Learn the rules, the fundamentals, and it will become obvious when to break them. Pablo Picasso wasn’t always an abstract modernist artist—first he mastered realism. That is the key.

To truly master any craft you must first learn the fundamentals—through mastery comes innovation. In this digital age there is often a tendency to dismiss fundamentals, rules, and mastery out-of-hand. Apprenticeship has gone the way of the dinosaur and is all but extinct. In the olden days an aspiring craftsman worked through the various stages of mastery: apprentice, journeyman, and finally master craftsman. It took years of dedication and hard work but it paid off in the end. Today’s cultures demand immediacy—we want everything NOW. But it doesn’t work that way and it never has. Learn the rules before breaking them.


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