Symmetry is everywhere. This means you can get better at taking symmetrical photos no matter where you are. All, or most anyway, of the rules that we adhere to in photography come from classic art. The tricks that the grandmasters used to create their paintings centuries ago are still as applicable today to your photography as they were then.
The basics of artistically interpreting and copying the real world and pasting it on a two-dimensional canvas never change. One of those fundamental principles is symmetry. Symmetry and patterns in photography are great ways to make your images more appealing and more impactful.
Symmetrical photos stand out because they’re attractive to the eye. People are drawn to visual perfection and compositions that work, that bring a sense of harmony. There’s a kind of comfort in pictures that are almost perfect, and with symmetrical photography, you’ll be able to find potential in the simple things.
Even if you’re not a ‘still life’ photographer, you can still get inspired by a perfectly symmetrical object, and then turn it into a photographic masterpiece.
What Is Symmetry?
I briefly spoke about composition in a previous article, but symmetry occurs when parts of your composition mirror other parts. If you think about the human body, it has vertical symmetry. The left half mirrors the right half.
It is found everywhere in nature once you start looking for it, and most man-made objects have symmetry, too Why? Because the human brain is hardwired to like symmetrical objects. We associate symmetry very closely with beauty. Here are a few examples of my own work that reflect symmetry in my composition, though I mostly do landscape photography so a lot of mine is assisted by water.
A benefit of understanding symmetry is knowing how to work with leading lines, a seemingly busy location will look perfect if you know where to shoot from and how to bring the viewer into your perspective.
Knowing how to use leading lines will also help you add depth to your photos. Instead of looking flat, your compositions will have shape and meaning. This will make your symmetrical images stand out even more.
Once you learn how to take symmetrical photos, you won’t need to keep taking them. You’ll be able to use your newfound skills in ways that are unique to your style.
Harnessing this almost automatic and beautiful composition technique isn’t hard, and that’s why many artists use it. From painters and sculptors to architects and photographers, symmetry is universal too in art and it’s everywhere.
In photography, some prominent examples come to mind in wedding photography. Why are those photos with the wedding party lined up next to the bride and groom so popular? Symmetry. What about the rows of pews in the church, or shots of the aisle and decorations? That’s symmetry again.
Types of Symmetry in Photography
Horizontal symmetry: when the image is divided between the top and bottom. The classic example is a landscape with mountains in the background, which are reflected in a foreground lake.
Take your imaginary line and place it horizontally at the center of your composition. This can be confused with reflective symmetry. The difference is that horizontal symmetry doesn’t necessarily have to feature a reflection. Reflective symmetry always does. Reflective symmetry is what I most often do when using the rules of symmetry.
Vertical symmetry: the type found most often in photography. Human and animal faces are vertically symmetrical, as in they mirror one another from left to right, but can be found in nature and still life also.
Vertical symmetry is the most common type of symmetry. Draw an imaginary vertical line at the center of your composition and if both sides are symmetrical, your photo will look visually appealing.
Vertical symmetry is often used in architectural photography because it emphasizes the size, shape, and design of buildings.
Radial symmetry: If you’re mesmerized by circular shapes, you’ll love radial symmetry, because this type of symmetry usually involves shapes that go round and round with the same patterns.
This is often associated with ripples. But it can also be used to photograph succulents, domes, wheels, etc.
Even common objects like a bicycle wheel or barbed wire fencing viewed through the circular mesh gain an intriguing, sometimes abstract or minimalistic flavor when radial symmetry is used to carry the image.
Reflective symmetry: all about reflections. You can find reflections in water, surfaces like glass, and buildings. You don’t need to be on the same level as your subject to take interesting reflective photos. Look for unusual surfaces, like the highway above, to take equally unusual photos.
Reflections can make an image appear to be more abstract or artistic and they can encourage the viewer to examine a scene more carefully in order to discern what is reality and what is reflected.
Bonus Tips To Create Symmetry & Balance
Leading lines, colors, object size, long-exposure light trails. I will get into these in coming articles! Subscribe to my website for updates on those!