Soulman - no disrespect taken ... "rules" is perhaps the wrong word, but "guidelines" isn't right either. I'm thinking about are those things which are fact ... ike the laws of physics.
For example, it is a fact that red coloured objects in an image appear to advance while blue/green colours appear to receed - this is based on how our eyes percieve colour. If you know and understand this principle (ah! perhaps "principle" is the right word to use!) you can use it to your advantage in a consistent manner. If you are unaware of this principle, then your use of colour to aid composition may be a bit hit & miss.
Similarly, the famous rule of thirds can be scientifically demonstrated to have value by measuring eye movement when a picture is viewed.
I'm not advocating that people follow artistic principles, simply that they should understand them. When 2 shots are being compared and you say "this one works, that one doesn't" it is helpful to be able to go beyond instinct and actually explain, in quantifiable terms WHY one works and one doesn't.
While much of this often seems instinctive and self evident, it is perhaps because most of us here are above average in terms of our natural perception of visual media - probably why we've chosen photography as a hobby. A quick glance through most people's holiday snaps demonstrates that this is not the norm ... the most basic principles of composition are ignored and there is nothing to hold the eye's attention.
but photography is an artform and an artform demands creativity
which is true, but all artforms (well any that have lasted at least
) work within sets of conventions - think of classical poetry for example, or a movie - the amount we take for granted in films is astonishing. A simple scene cut to a new location seems natural to us, but we have learned what this means - a primitive tribesman exposed to a movie for the first time will simply not understand it, he has not aquired the language of films.
Many photographs are NOT art. They are simply a record of what was seen. I think that art emerges from using the subject within the constraints of the chosen media to show something new, more clearly, or elicit an emotion.
Think how the frame of the image and a shallow depth of field can be used to isolate a figure in a crowd - commonplace stuff these days, but imagine the impact of the first photograph like this ... I don't think painters blurred backgrounds prior to the invention of photography. DOF is a convention unique to photography, and we must understand it in order to use it effectively.
Ultimately we all use the principles of composition/photography - either deliberately or sub-conciously. All I'm suggesting is that increasing our awareness and understanding of those principles can do no harm.
Sorry for rambling on but thanks for providing a chance to talk about photography (as opposed to equipment!)
Colin K. Work, Pixstel