Repeating patterns and mirror-image symmetry look great when incorporated into your photos. Here’s a few tips on how to make the most of them.
Our brains are hardwired to look for patterns and symmetry, and probably did so originally to ensure our survival as a species. For early man, choosing a mate, finding food, and distinguishing predators all relied on predicting symmetry on some level – no wonder we find it so satisfying in our art, architecture, and music.
There are a few main types of symmetry – some simple, others complex – but all are really powerful for creating great photography. Pictures that make good use of symmetry tend to create more of a ‘wow’ factor when we see them for the first time and look great hung on the wall as large prints. Symmetry can also create balance in a picture and convey a sense of calm, even a sense of unease if everything looks a little too perfect. It just feels right.
© Michael Melford
Where to Find Symmetry and Patterns
At its most basic, symmetry requires part of the picture to be duplicated and then positioned in a place that’s easy for our brains to predict. This could be formed by the reflection of a landscape in water, the view down a long, straight road, or the doorways and arches in a building. You also can photograph highly symmetrical objects in a way that shows off their regularity, like cars, airplanes, and boats.
© Simon Lewis
Symmetry doesn’t always have to be caused by reflections. Rotational symmetry is seen in the spiral shapes that are often found in nature, such as the arrangement of petals in a flower, or the curve of a snail shell.
While simple symmetry like this has a certain purity to it, you can also find symmetry in the repeating patterns made by collections of objects – both man-made and natural. For example: logs in a woodpile, clay tiles on a roof, or tidal patterns in the sand. Simple repetition can be a great way to inject some humor into a scene, such as the happy accident of two people on the street who happen to be doing the same thing at the same time.
© Jonathan Irish
When it comes to photographing symmetry, the key is not overcomplicating it. All you really need to do is put the subject center stage and make sure there’s nothing else in the frame to steal attention.
It can be tricky to get dead center to a scene and this can take some practice. To ensure that your shot is level, you can use your X Series camera’s built-in electronic level. Turn this on from the camera’s main menu:
STEP 1: Press MENU OK and navigate to the SET UP > SCREEN SET-UP menu.
STEP 2: Select the DISP. CUSTOM SETTING option.
STEP 3: Scroll down the list of available options and tick ELECTRONIC LEVEL by pressing the MENU OK button.
When it comes to repeating patterns, either give your composition enough room to breathe, or fill the frame by zooming in for maximum effect. Don’t forget to try stooping low or getting up high to explore different viewpoints, and try out different angles, too – experiment and be extreme!
© Bill Fortney
Your Next Steps
- CHALLENGE Over the next week, look out for symmetry and photograph it. Look on different scales, from huge to tiny, and post your best pictures to social media with the hashtag #MyFujifilmLegacy. You can also submit your work here for a chance to be featured on our social media channels.
© Seth K Hughes