Tools not Rules by Caroline Preece LRPS

Caroline Preece LRPS
Caroline Preece LRPS
As I introduced our guest speaker for the evening, I secretly realised how much I was looking forward to hearing this presentation. Our speaker, Caroline Preece LRPS from Loughton Camera Club, was going to talk about the psychology of photo composition in a presentation she has entitled, ‘Tools not Rules’. Having a general interest in the ‘human psyche’ I was keen to know how psychology could improve my compositions.
Caroline started off with an introduction to her talk, explaining the three sections that she was going to cover;
1. Photography as a visual language
2. Photography in the visual world
3. Psychology of photographs

Caroline explained how rules get in the way of creativity and that we as photographers need to be free to communicate conscious choices of what we want to say and how we feel through our work. When discussing photography as a visual language Caroline asked for audience participation as a way of proving a point about how we all interpret a particular thing differently explaining a strong image is about something and not of something.

Throughout Caroline's presentation, her advice was backed up with many inspirational quotes and images from great photographers all blended with the science of psychology.

She explained her working process from taking a photo to processing it asking herself the following questions at the processing stage:
• What do I see?
• What is the mood/atmosphere in the image?
• What do I feel?
• What do I want the viewer to feel?
• What can I remove to improve the effect?

Moving on to the other sections, Caroline talked in detail evidencing through images taken by herself and other famous photographers the Gestalt Principles of Design. This section particularly resonated with me as the images suddenly on the screen made sense, I could see and understand why the photographer had taken an image in a particular way. Covering all the information that Caroline gave to our 24 strong audience would make this document very long and therefore falls out of the scope of my article, however, it is safe to say, I will never look at an image again in the same way and I will be reading more about Gestalt and his principles in the future. I also found the section about visual weight, hierarchy, and intensity also very interesting and how each one affects each other and more importantly how it affects how your eye moves through an image.

This is a technical presentation that is wonderfully presented with great images, science, and quotes from some of the world’s best photographers and psychologists. Anyone listening to Caroline’s presentation will find it difficult not to take away something from it. How often have we sat through our club competitions and listened to the judge give a narrative of what they are seeing from our images. This is exactly what Caroline is explaining to us, our photographs need a voice and by understanding a little bit of psychology, it will go a long way in enhancing not only the composition but also the communication from our images.

For more information about the Mid-Cheshire Camera Club visit our website at or come along to a meeting on Wednesday evening at 7.45 for 8pm at St Andrews Methodist Church, Dingle Lane, Winsford.