It’s a popular saying: “Rules are made to be broken.” But this is only half true, and something that beginners in photography should be wary of. Yes, rules are meant to be broken occasionally… but first you have to know those rules inside out, backwards, and diagonally.

In photography, no rules are more common than the Rule of Thirds and the Golden Mean. If you follow the advice in that saying, you’ll avoid them like the plague, always looking for quirky or different compositions so that you’re not taking “the same photo” as everyone else.

But the truth is that many the most popular photos EVER uploaded to 500px follow the Rule of Thirds and Golden Mean to a T. Don’t believe us? Here are 21 insanely popular (and insanely good) photos from the 500px archives that are perfectly-composed and more beautiful for it:

Have an example of when you followed these two rules perfectly? Or maybe you broke them and got a photo you’re particularly proud of? Either way, upload the shot to 500px and drop a link in the comments! Show us how breaking or following the rules has helped your photography.