The Rule of Implied Recognition

When you take a picture of an object of interest, do you strive to get the whole object in the frame, or do you instead attempt to single out an interesting feature and highlight it in your photographs?  Often, the answer to that question is what separates the gifted amateur from the hack, or the really great shot from the ho-hum stills your Uncle Ned used to bore you to tears during one of his interminable slide shows of the annual family beach vacation.

Remember the Rule of Thirds?  That was one of the first photography tips I blogged, and it remains one of my most viewed articles all these months later with regular hits occurring almost daily.  Let’s try another rule.  Let’s call this the Rule of Implied Recognition.  Like that title?  I just now made that up.  It might have another name, but if it does I’m unaware of it.

Let’s take an example of this Rule of Implied Recognition:  Everyone has seen pictures of the Roman Coliseum.  So much so that such pictures, taken from a distance, centered in the frame, and capturing the structure in toto are, let’s be brutally honest here, B-O-R-I-N-G.  Why?  Because we’ve seen it before.  Hundreds of times before.  Everybody who goes to Rome comes back with that stupid shot.  There’s no imagination in that.

But, what if you took a really unique shot of just a portion of the Coliseum?  What if you homed in on just a section of it, just enough to give your shot a really unusual perspective, yet one that is instantly recognizable as the Coliseum?

What if, instead of this  

We chose to do this instead?   

This rule has uses far beyond pictures of landmarks.  It also works great for other recognizable objects such as automobiles and aircraft.  From last week you’ll recall that we’ve been showing our eldest grandchild the local sites.  Last Tuesday, his last full day with us, I took our grandson to the War Eagles Air Museum in nearby Santa Teresa, New Mexico.  It’s a neat little museum that leans heavily toward military aircraft dating from World War II through the Korean Conflict, but it also has many classic cars on display as well.

Most of the shots below follow my made-up Rule of Implied Recognition.  If you’re an aviation buff, you’ll have little trouble identifying most of the aircraft from just the small sections I chose to highlight in these photographs.  Same if you’re a car buff.  In other shots I chose to include more of the subject because it struck me as an interesting angle or configuration, or it just seemed right to do so at the time.  Other shots were cropped in post processing to further focus on a particular feature.  If you practice your photography and are serious about getting the best shots, you will develop an instinct for this type thing.  All that’s required is thinking about the elements that will make the image you’re photographing interesting to others, and then highlighting those elements.

So, here we go with the Rule of Implied Recognition in action alongside a few photographs where that rule was ignored at the photographers discretion:


This blog article was set to auto-post early Monday morning, as Ursula and I have left on another of our journeys.  As I did with our Rio-to-Fort Lauderdale excursion earlier this year, I hope to bring to you a running commentary with photographs of our latest (secret for now) adventure.  This trip will run for around sixteen days, so look for highlights over the next six or seven scheduled blog entries.  And remember, those new articles run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with the occasional extra blog hitting at other times if something important crops up.

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  1. Pingback: Seven for Seven — Part 4 | R. Doug Wicker — Author