Tag Archives: Pattern

Symmetry – A Powerful Compositional Tool

Sometimes a symmetry in your shots is interesting and compelling

Sometimes a symmetry in your shots is interesting and compelling

Forget the rule of thirds when the time is right

Photographers are artists. So the only real rule we have is that there are no rules. Symmetry is one of those compositional elements that has its own dynamic impact. We often off-set a picture to one side or another in our composition because that lends a dynamic and unbalanced feel that keeps the viewer looking into the shot. Be prepared to put aside the rule of thirds when the time is right.

Symmetrical subjects and patterns capture the imagination enough to be placed centrally. Here are some thoughts on symmetrical pictures…
True symmetry? Photographs are not normally true mirror symmetry. However, the differences and tiny variations in the picture that defy the symmetry is where the interest lies. If your shot looks like it is symmetrical, did you show enough about the bits that were not? Those are the parts that capture the viewers eye.

The sun has been crying

The sun has been crying. The tears where dirty water has trickled down relieve the symmetry and provide interest.

Central theme? Often the symmetrical shots that work the best have a central theme. A split picture provides a theme. A road or railway splitting the shot in two gives the symmetry and the subject, particularly where there is a vanishing point.
A vanishing point provides both a subject of interest and symmetry.

A vanishing point provides both a subject of interest and symmetry.
(By Light Collector - on flickr)

Pattern or similarity? Symmetry is strictly speaking about mirroring one part of the image to another. However, that rarely happens in real-world photography. A pattern shot gives more of a repetitive feel on one side and the other – mimicking symmetry. However, if you look carefully you will see in the pattern shot that there are clear differences. And, it is the looking carefully that does it for the viewer. If you can get the viewer to peer into your shot, then the pattern has captured their eye. It matters little that the symmetry or pattern is not true on one side or the other. In fact it is more real and attractive that it is actually unbalanced. My picture at the top of the page is an example.


The real interest in a symmetrical picture is the fact that it is NOT symmetrical. If your picture looks symmetrical at first glance it is probably worth centralizing the symmetry. However, make sure you have something in the symmetry to pull the viewers eye into the shot. Because true symmetry rarely happens in the real world it is really odd if it is perfectly symmetrical. So make sure, even in a pattern shot, that something catches the eye to relieve the symmetry and makes the viewer get into the shot.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Abstract photography – what it is and how to do it

Abstract photography - great pictures and lots of fun!

'Red' - In the style of Rothko
Abstract photography can produce great pictures and be lots of fun!
Concentrate on colour, form, shape and focus for best effect.
Click to view large.

What is Abstract Photography?

“Abstraction forces you to reach the highest level of the basics.”

Alan Soffer

Abstract photography concentrates on the very simplest of components in a piece of art. Those are are known as the “Elements of Art”. They are…

  • Line;
  • Two dimensional shape (2d);
  • Three dimensional (3d) form;
  • Colour;
  • Space;
  • Tone, and
  • Texture.
Extra dimensions in abstract photography

Two extra dimensions are often found in abstract photography. One is the use of ‘movement’ – mostly through movement-blur. Perhaps, used more often is the use of focus, especially by controlling the depth of field. In addition, abstracts often incorporate “pattern”, which is a more complex structure from the “Principles of Art”.

Photo abstracts take the viewer away from knowing or recognizing the subject. Instead they invite the viewer to almost ‘feel’ the textures, forms and other elements of the subject. Often abstract photography makes the object unrecognisable as an object in its own right. Instead it directs attention to the look and feel – the essence of the object.

For a more detailed definition of Abstract Photography check this page in our Glossary…
Abstract Photography – a Definition

How to Shoot Abstracts

Abstracts are about our creativity and not about the object. The simple shot above, with its rich emotional orange, is a glass of water coloured with red dye and slightly backlit with a desk lamp. Many abstracts are created using the simplest things – often they are found around the home. Abstract photography is all about simplicity. Getting down to the basics is often the best route to a good abstract.

Using the “Elements of Art”

The list above is perhaps difficult to think about in terms of actually creating an image. However, think carefully about what you see in the frame for your shot. Often you can see these simple elements in your subject. Try to simplify your shot so that you see only one, two, or at most three of those elements. If you manage to get the image to remain simple, you will make the shot more understandable. If you also manage, through that simplicity, to capture the readers eye, you will excite the viewer. Simple components, simple connections, simple insight to a subject – all these give you effective abstract material.

Study the Elements of Art, at length. Try to see the simplicity within your frame. That is the key to developing your insight into abstraction.

Other techniques…

To help you shoot a few abstracts I have put a list of things you can try below. Try one, or a few at a time. Compare them to some of the examples in the links below the list. Reduce or remove clutter. Keep your shot as simple as possible.

  • Look for patterns – especially very close up.
  • Textures – show the ‘feel’ of surfaces and faces of an object.
  • Try unusual or unique angles.
  • Use a macro lens, macro tubes, or get really close.
  • Crop very tight to an interesting/unrecognisable part.
  • Concentrate on multiple colour variations without showing the whole object.
  • Concentrate on tonal variation – minimise colours.
  • Use long, low light exposure to bring out subtle shadow variations.
  • Use soft or hard light variations on close-ups.
  • Emphasis the ‘shape’ (2d) of an object – keep it from being recognised.
  • Exaggerate the ‘form’ (3d) of something – keep it from being recognised.
  • Concentrate on curves and rounded shapes or forms.
  • Concentrate on angular and geometric shapes or forms.

Many of these can be applied to everyday objects or common items. Once you become aware of the shapes, forms, patterns and textures in the things around you a new world opens up. So try to take one of the above and spend a few days looking at everything around you for ways to see that item. Then move on to others. Before long you will be an abstract photographer!

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.