Photograph above taken at the Apple and Wine festival, Altamont Fairgrounds, NY with a Leica MP240
Are Camera Design Grids Necessary for Photography?
With the recent revival of classical art training, Dynamic Symmetry is becoming more widespread. Along with this rebirth in classical design techniques comes new art and photography products as well. Over the past few years, I've had a significant number of photographers ask me if taping design grids to their camera's LCD screen is necessary for creating great compositions. My response is always the same - absolutely not.
Regardless of the product claims found online, professional photographers don't use camera grids to compose their images nor are they photographing with these grids in mind. More importantly, using camera grids in no way ensures that the photographer will capture an acceptable image. Creating successful photographs is dependent on many variables that include the armature of the rectangle, figure-ground relationship, proper overlapping, and the appropriate balance of individual elements in your design.
Before using camera grids, there are several factors that all photographers must consider. Firstly, attaching a design grid to a camera's viewfinder prevents the photographer from concentrating on the scene or subject they are photographing because they are always preoccupied with lining up visual elements. In turn, this constant distraction limits the photographer's artistic creativity because they aren't considering any other alternatives for their composition besides the design scheme they have chosen to tape to their LCD screen.
Secondly, photographers that rely on camera grids for composition are not acquiring the long-term benefits of learning classical skill-based art and will never develop the necessary intuitive design skills to shoot without this visual crutch. The fact is, despite all the elaborate camera grid products available, there are no shortcuts for creating great art and taping design grids to your camera is far too limiting to be considered a realistic approach for applying Dynamic Symmetry in photography. This technique is best suited for the beginner student.
The photograph below was taken without a camera design grid. However, you can see how the dominant lines (indicated in yellow) fall into place. An experienced photographer, one who is thoroughly trained in all aspects of classical skill-based art, does not need to rely on camera grids and learns how to visualize the composition in its entirety before snapping the shutter.