Photograph above taken in NYC with a Leica M7 and Ilford XP-2 film
Whenever a photographer asks me if camera grids are necessary for applying Dynamic Symmetry to a photograph, my first thought is "ugh,..here we go again. They must have seen another advertisement for camera grid packs on YouTube."
When I first started learning about Dynamic Symmetry years ago, I have to admit, I thought the idea of using a camera grid would be cool and would allow me to easily take "Bresson like" images. Well, after experimenting with camera grids for two years and taping plastic transparencies to my Leica M240 LCD screen, I realized I was wrong. In fact, I was dead wrong! Here's why.
1. I found it difficult to concentrate on what I was photographing.
Using camera grids on your camera, whether it's the Rule of Thirds or Dynamic Symmetry, is like texting while driving - it's a total distraction. For example, whenever I was on a photography shoot, I noticed I wasn't concentrating on the scene or subjects I was photographing, but instead I was always preoccupied with the idea of lining of visual elements. Because of this constant preoccupation, I wasn't thinking about figure-ground relationship, overlapping elements, coincidences, or any of the other classical skill-based design techniques that make a photograph a work of art.
2. My visual literacy skills got worse over time.
After several months of using camera grids, I discovered that my visual literacy skills were actually getting worse instead of better. The reality is, while camera grids can be beneficial for the beginner student that wants to familiarize themselves with the armature of the rectangle, if used for too long, they will make you a sloppy photographer because you're always relying on the grid to do the work for you.
3. I looked like an amateur when I used them.
Yeah, this might not seem like a big deal to most photographers, but the reality is, holding up your camera and looking through a design grid taped to your LCD screen screams amateur! And let's face it, the last thing you want to do as a professional photographer is to show up for a paid gig and making it obvious to everyone around you that you can't take a decent photograph without a plastic transparency taped to your camera. Good luck getting hired for another job after that.