Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Using Symmetry to Improve Your Photography Composition

One of the simpler definitions of symmetry states: - “Symmetry is a vague sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance”.

symmetry in photography
Photo by: Dennis Jarvis

Although there are several different types of symmetry, in photography the most common method of achieving symmetry is by creating an image which can be divided into two equal parts which are mirror images of each other. The line that splits a symmetrical object is called the Line of Symmetry. Symmetry can be either vertical (left and right halves being symmetrical) or horizontal (top and bottom halves being symmetrical).

Vertical and Horizontal Lines of Symmetry

symmetry in photography definition
Photo by: Bert Kaufmann

An object is said to have vertical line of symmetry if the line of symmetry is perpendicular to the horizon line. Similarly an object is said to have horizontal line of symmetry if the line of symmetry is parallel to the horizon line.

Finding Symmetry

One can always find great examples of symmetry in architecture like skyscrapers, details like doors and windows, ceiling patterns, , corridors, design of gardens  landscapes etc. reflections in water also make classic examples simply because of the compositional balance of the scene.

symmetry in photography composition
Photo by: Benson Kua

Finding symmetry in nature on a grand scale is not easy, although you can sometimes get this when shooting landscapes it is often hard to find. But on a macro level  symmetry is everywhere to be found, look at flowers, petals, spider web patterns, snowflakes and what not.

Tips for Shooting Symmetrical Subjects / Scenes

In photography composition, symmetrical can be effectively used to create a sense of harmony, balance and proportion. It soothes the eyes and mind of the viewer.

importance of symmetry in photography
Photo by: Damien du Toit

There are many techniques to strengthen or weaken the symmetric properties of an object or scene. The most important among them is “how much of a scene you choose to show”. The position of the camera in relation to the subject, its height, tilt etc also could be effectively used to strengthen or weaken symmetry.

To be effective a symmetrical shot must have two essential elements a strong composition and an eye catching point of interest. Symmetry works best in situations where one least expects to find them.

rules composition symmetry
Photo by: seier+seier

One thing to remember while trying to achieve symmetry in photography composition is to shoot from the center of the structure. Be very careful when composing your frame, the center of the design has to be precisely equidistant to both sides and the camera sensor should be parallel to the structure.

For example

If you are shooting a church interior with magnificent domes in the ceiling you should place the camera directly beneath the center of the dome.

symmetry photographs
Photo by: Bert Kaufmann

Tilting up of down would not be a problem if you have positioned the camera precisely on the center of the subject. But if your camera is off center and you try to achieve symmetry by angling your camera the resulting image will often look off balance.

Another great way to use them is to find a way to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.

Breaking Symmetry

Symmetry is one thing that can become boring when used over and over again. So at times breaking it could be more fun. You can actually break the symmetry in a scene and still make it look balanced by adding a strong focal point in your photograph. Another method of breaking symmetry is to use contrast levels for example photographing a symmetrical object / structure / scene with one side well lit and the other left in shadows.

basic photography composition
Photo by: Vinoth Chandar

Try shooting a subject / scene using both symmetrically and asymmetrically and see for yourselves which one works betters in each case. 

Here are some creative application of symmetry in photographic composition for your inspiration.

symmetry in photographic composition
Photo by: H Matthew Howarth

composition of a photo
Photo by: jenny downing

Photography Composition Rules
Photo by: Fernando Insausti

composition Symmetry
Photo by: Bert Kaufmann

Photo by: David

symmetry photography
Photo by: roger alcantara

Do give it a try and post your images in the comments below.

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