I have have been reading a book on book design (Adrian Wilson's The Design of Books) which is quite wonderful. It provides a lot of information, a lot of detail to think about, a lot of ideas and concepts, and nothing specific in the way of rules. There are no dicta. He says things like "these fonts have a traditional look, so think about it before combining them with modern design ideas" (not an actual quotation).
In general I am struck by how frequently creative people who are actually good at creative things decline to boil things down to rules of thumb, dictates, and the like. There's far more discussion of what is possible, and what, in general terms, the various bits and pieces are likely to do.
I recently got into a discussion about rules of composition (again) and as always happens, it devolved into me and a few people like me staring goggle-eyed at a handful for people who cling to the Rule of Thirds and so on with a desperation that drives them into waves of fury when someone points out that these rules are based on exactly nothing, and are the contemporary inventions of people who would teach photography to camera owners.
While the rest of the world worries that Photography is being ruined by the fact that everyone has a phone and can take pictures, I suspect that far greater is the damage done by people who want to sell glossy softcover books about Improve Your Digital Photographs and people who want to draw clicks by cutting and pasting material drawn from other unsuccessful web sites.
I would rather know about a billion people just reaching out and shooting a flower because it's pretty than about one schmo lumbering through his way through one Formal Composition Based On The Golden Spiral after another. The latter, unfortunately, seeks to shove his ideas into the former, and pretty soon we have fairly pretty flowers all slavishly placed at the same location in the frame until all the beautiful flowers blend into one another and it's all garbage. There are major web sites literally filled with these things.
It feels like a wall has been erected.
You get a phone, you start taking pictures with the camera. They may be no great shakes, but they have a certain verity to them. See also this post from a while back, about a somewhat enigmatic snapshootist.
If you get interested, you start poking around the internet, or maybe you try to find a book. This is where the wall is. You will, inevitably, start to find "information" about how to put
objects into the frame. Rules of thirds, Power Triangles, all kinds of shit. If you follow these dictates, your pictures will start to look like the other pictures you have seen and admired. In fact, they will start to look very much indeed like those pictures. Practically identical, often. Perhaps this delights you, satisfies you. I suppose there would be nothing wrong with that. It has, in some circles, become the established taste. While they claim it's all basically just da Vinci and Micheangelo, it's not. It's just some bozos trying to sell How To books, the ideas escaped, and became this sort of self-licking ice cream cone, a sort of cult of ideas that exist only in the world of Serious Amateur Photography.
But maybe you got sucked into it, because these ideas are ubiquitous in that narrow world which is probably where you looked, and you are now trapped at a wall.
People who have been photographing for a year or two or three will, from time to time, complain that they are "stuck" and curious as to "how to progress". Their peers will tell them to buy some stuff, and I suppose sometimes this works. But that's not the problem. They're trapped at the wall.
I don't know what percentage of photographers can feel that they're trapped. Maybe only a few. I kind of think that even one is too many though, you know?
The trouble is that the wall is tough. Many photographers who are, knowing or unknowing, stuck at this wall are the ones who will fly into a rage when you say things like The Golden Triangle is a modern invention, based on almost nothing. It is bullshit, and you should forget it, substituting instead actual looking, actual seeing, and actual feeling. If a fellow is one of those, well, I don't see how he's going to get past it. He's willing to fight a pitched and angry keyboard battle to avoid getting unstuck.
What's worse, is that this doorknob is promulgating this same crap. While one chap might be perfectly happy with rules-based pictures, and more power to him, he's creating more people similarly bound, and some of those people are going to hit the wall, they're going to feel it, they're going to know it, they're going to be frustrated by it.
Then when they ask their mentor, doorknob guy, how to get unstuck, he is going to suggest buying a macro lens and experimenting with oil drops on water, or something. The doorway to some totally new domain of crappy copies of utterly uninteresting exercises in technique.
Way to go, doorknob guy.