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Using Symmetry in Photography Composition

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In this post, we’re going to teach you how to effectively use symmetry in photography.

Once you learn how to use this technique you’ll be able to create stunning looking symmetrical photo compositions!

Let’s get started.

What is Symmetry in Photography?

By definition, symmetry in an image is when an image can be split down the middle and the left and right sides of the photo are mirror images of each other.

In geometrical terms, imagine taking a photo of a triangle or a square. If you cut that image in half, both sides of the photo would mirror each other. That’s symmetry.

Don’t get hung up on the idea that to have symmetry in an image it has to be an exact mirror image on both sides of the composition. Rarely is anything in our natural world perfectly symmetrical. As long as the image is close enough to looking the same on both sides we consider it a symmetrical photo.

How Do You Achieve Symmetrical Compositions?

To achieve a symmetrical photo all you have to do is fill your frame with something that is almost, if not perfectly identical on both sides of the frame. Look for repetitious items within your scene and try to shoot a photo with them placed evenly apart.

Take the photo below for example.

This is a perfect example of photographic symmetry because both sides of the image contain a row of windmills and they are placed similarly on each side the frame. If the photographer had panned the camera a little more to the left or right, this would have broken the symmetry because the windmills would have have been spaced evenly apart.

The photography composition below is another good example of symmetry.

By design, the architecture of the Hungarian Parliament building is symmetrical. The photographer exemplified this trait by framing the photo so that the dome of the building is in the center of the image and the rest of the building mirrors each other on both sides.

Your Goal: Prevent Boring Symmetrical Photos

As we mentioned earlier the biggest problem with symmetry in photography is that it can lead to a boring photo.

That’s because with both sides of an image being identical in a composition it doesn’t take long to look through this type of photograph. Everything looks the same and its easy to digest.

Here’s a classic example of a boring symmetrical image. Its nearly identical on both sides of the frame and nothing much is really going on within it. All we see is a road and a horizon. I don’t know too many people that would spend more than a second or two looking at this photo.

So, your goal as a photographer is to prevent boring symmetrical photos!

Here’s how you can compose a great symmetrical photo by following two rules:

  1. Capture an image where its not expected.
  2. Break up the symmetry in some way to introduce tension.

Below are a few examples of capturing an image where its not expected. Yes, these photos are symmetrical but notice how they are anything but boring!

Another great trick to composing amazing symmetry in photos is to breaks the symmetry in some way.

This will introduce tension into the image – making a more dynamic symmetrical photo. Take the photos below for example. At first glance the photo on the left seems pretty boring. Its just a photo of a doorway with some windows. But, if you look in the lower right corner you will see a red bucket. This small element adds interest and tension to this photo because it breaks up the symmetry. Now look at the photo on the right of the garden. Just by including the moon in the upper right hand corner of the frame this photo becomes more dynamic. Without the moon the photo would be boring. Including the moon adds tension because your eyes want to go back and forth between the moon and the garden.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial on using symmetry in photography. Please share this tutorial with other photographers using the button below!

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  1. James

    June 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Symmetry can be cool, but it can also be very bland. It’s the most obvious way of taking a picture. Taking a picture from a different angle with different elements on the left and right side of the frame is much more difficult, but worth learning if you have any interest in photography. I’m tired of seeing church shots that are just symmetric wide angle shots from the back.

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