10 Golden rules for really horrible photos

Now, that I have read, at least felt, 1.000 golden rules for “how to take good photos”, here it finally is: the ultimate guide for “how to take really horrible photos”. Even that has to be learned!

  1. Go far away from your motive. What you want to depict should not be pushed in the foreground. Do not make it too easy for the later observer to recognize what you wanted to depict. Every big artist did it! Why do you think those photos hang in the galleries for so long? Of course, because they were so vague that famous art critics still argue about what the artists wanted to say with these photos. In addition, it improves your data privacy protection!
  2. For every rule there is an exemption (here for rule 1). When you want to take photos of people, get as close as you can. The closer the better. Important is, that you do it totally unannounced! Use the surprise element. The model must feel very uncomfortable in her own skin. Break through the usual cultural distance – go as close as possible. Only that way you achieve detail, which nobody wants to see (especially not the photographed person). But you can take the photos, which nobody else has – with wrinkles and skin impurities.
    Furthermore you should care about emitting a strong garlic stench, that the t-shirt you wear is at least used for 3 weeks and everybody knows it because of the smell. A subtile note of alcohol rounds up your appearance. If you don/’t like alcohol, then simply spill something on the front of your t-shirt (see rule 8, also helps with rule 4).
  3. Never ever touch the manual of your camera or know how to handle it! Only that way unspoiled photos can be taken. Never bow to the dictate of the technic – you are the artist and not that damn box. And no matter how the photos are in the end – you have planned them exactly like that, and if others do not grasp it, it is even better. Real artists can/’t be understood (in the best case after their death – and than it doesn/’t matter anymore. If you already know exposure, aperture, depth of field and ISO you are clearly disadvantaged and suffer from foreign influence. If you have already read the manual or understand your camera then you can either buy a new one or consum alcohol to counterbalance (helps also with rule 4).
  4. Sharpness is totally overestimated! Never keep your camera steady – everything has to come out of an artistic flow of motions – best is, when you and the model are both moving. Do a line dance or a break dance.
    Should by accident the photos still be sharp because of too much light, then you have to change the exposure time (now you have to take a look into the manual for christs/’ sake, what this Tv or S means – and then go for it). Confidently put your exposure time on 1/5 of a second or even better 1 second – and finally you have achieved the necessary blurriness. Now nobody can complain about wrinkels or skin impurities (Contradicts rule 2 – but, so what).
  5. Expections for rule 4: You do (not) want a classic portrait – now you need sharpness everywhere in foreground and background. We want the portrait and the background as sharp as possible. All signs of time like wrinkles or scratches have to be documented – refuse the beauty hype. Never ever show inbetween the taken photos. Contradiction has to be futile. For that is is important, that you set the f-numbers on a higher value – aperture 11 is awesome. In every case we want the background sharp and enough depth of field. If necessary only make the background sharp.
  6. Refuse some new modern image composition recommendations. Rule of thirds, golden ratio and golden spiral have to be foreign words for you and should sound more after contraception terms than photography terms. The golden middle is the reference of all things – as grandma said. Always place everything in the middle of the picture! Your pictures do not need tension – you are objective and, of course, an artist. Harmony is for wimps and sissies!
  7. Photograph the person, this is extremely important, so that she isn/’t fully in the picture. Choose the picture section (while following rule 6) so that you can be sure that every joint is cut of. Joints are the perfect place for that. The observer has to involuntary ask himself, in which war the poor depicted one was, to lose all his limbs.
  8. Especially care about when taking photos of people, that they are not in a good mood! This wrecks your photo. People in a good mood are a myth and it is played in the picture anyway. You want the real stuff with honest photos. For that some preparatory work is necessary. Discreetly find out which music the person listens to. If the person loves classical music… then listen to hard rock or death metal while shooting. If pop music is their preferred choice (maybe some boy group)… then you only have one direction (😉) you can rely on, which is again hard rock and metal. If you have a hard rock fan in front of you, then you have bad luck. Sometimes they are not even that uncomfortable with folk music… therefore break these tough nuts with a on-endless-repeat playlist of 4 to 6 boy band songs. You must feel the unease of the photographed person from the first moment.
    A great possibility is to instantly drop the sentence: „What you waiting for - hurry up and remove your cloths for the nude pictures“ – this sentence is extremely efficient, especially when you two talked beforehand only about portrait photos.
    Increase the discomfort in the photo shooting steadily. Control your photos on the display of your camera as often as possible (If you do/’t know the button for the preview then simply fake like you would do it). Important is, that you constantly grumble about bad pictures. Your sentences have to be that open ended, that the photographed person relates it onto herself. That way you can bring professional models to their limits. Train that! It is also important to mumble about histograms (even if you have no plan, what they do and if you can eat them) and state that everything was better in the good old days. This automatically makes you look like an old hand.
  9. Correct colors are old school. Mixed light is the magical word – confuse the white balance of your camera. Stimulate it – for that always use automatic white balance (why else have you spent so much money on a camera). Care about, that you have as many different light sources as possible. A combination of fluorescent tubes and old light bulbs is always good. Construction spotlights mix in perfectly and have a hidden action potential, when somebody burns himself or half the equipment catches fire.
    It is also important that you casually tell a story, that you are color-blind, but it doesn/’t affect you really, it is only annoying with traffic lights.
  10. Never ever show, that you have fun photographing - this would break rule 8 (and that is not what we want). Never take yourself serious. Also not the one vis-à-vis to you or this manual, which you can extend or burn as you want.

Author: Axel Pratzner

Translator: Felix Pratzner