Principles Of Design In Photography

December 29

21 min. to read

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Many designers choose to be photographers. But why do photographers want to learn design?

Photography principles and design are interconnected and can complement each other perfectly. If you do photography, try to learn at least the basics of design. It can make a huge difference in your approach to photography.

Today we're going to look at some basic design principles and elements of photography that you can apply. Using this information, you will be able to improve your pictures and become more professional and unique as a photographer. Our tips will help you take extraordinary photos and hopefully make you think more carefully about your creative choices.

Why is it that in some photos one wants to study every detail, peering for hours, while others do not arouse the slightest interest? This is because, in the relatively short time of its existence as an art form, foundational principles of photography and some basic rules a formed. Concepts such as the rule of thirds or the Golden Ratio are prime examples of formulas that lead to success.

When you take a picture, you make choices about how to take the picture, around the frame, and so on. In a sense, you become a designer for a while and create the final product. This is where the design principles of art come into play, helping you make your decisions as an aspiring designer.

Top Aspects of Design for Photography

Thus, it is obvious that composition is of great importance. But what is composition? Roughly speaking, it is a positive space where individual elements have to become a whole, and where images, text, graphics, and colors are formed into a unified design in which everything fits together.

A successful composition assumes that you've organized the elements of design in photography and distributed them correctly. It not only looks beautiful from the outside, but it's also effective from a functional standpoint. So let's run through some basic tips, tricks, and techniques that will make you a composition guru in no time.

As we were once told in school, the distribution of emphasis is very important. The key element of any good composition is the focus because it helps the viewer focus on the most important details of the design photography definition in the first place.

As you choose your focus point, remember that the main purpose of any design is communication. Whether you're trying to share some idea, information, or just a feeling or emotion, your design will communicate a certain story, so you need to choose a focus that helps to do that as effectively as possible.

Among the methods of attracting attention are:

  • scale; 

  • contrast; 

  • signage.

Just as you point a person to something you want to show that you want your viewer's eye with a certain arrangement of curves and different shapes. That way you can get the right perception of your design.

Chances are, you are already familiar with one of the most common types of signage: schematic signage. Schematics use lines that direct the eye from one point to another in a fairly obvious order. 

They can also point to some connecting text repeated elements or small pieces of information. As mentioned, you should focus on the main item first; but where will you look afterward? By placing the pointers correctly, you can not only control your attention on the main elements and principles of photography but also guide your viewer's eye throughout the design movement. Let me now consider the 7 principles of art in more detail.

1. Equilibrium

Understanding what unity is in terms of physics is easy in our familiar world we feel it: if something is not balanced, it cannot stand. As a child, you probably rode on the swings with your friends. If your weight is about the same, you have no trouble keeping your balance. The person on one end of the board swings it one way and the person on the left end swings it the opposite way. They then apply the same force in opposite directions, so the sum of the actions is zero.

But you can't do that if one person is much heavier than the other.

Balance in design is based on the same principles of design in photography. Physical mass is replaced by visual weight, and the direction in which the force of attraction acts on it is replaced by visual direction:

  1. Visual mass is the perceived mass of one element, a measure of how strongly that page element attracts attention.

  2. Visual direction is the perceived direction of the visual force in which we think the object would move if it could move under the physical forces acting on it. There are no tools to measure these forces and no formulas to calculate visual balance: to determine whether a composition is balanced, you are guided only by your eyes.

Balance provides stability and structure to the design. Balance is the semantic weight distributed in the design movement by the place of elements together. Photography elements and principles do not have to be the same size. Balance can be achieved by placing a large element on one side of the design and several smaller elements on the other side. Balance can be achieved in two ways: symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetrical balance is achieved when the weight of the visual elements on both halves of the design is equal, taking into account the center line. Asymmetrical balance is achieved by using contrast. A darker element must be balanced by using lighter elements.

Why is visual balance important?

Visual balance is just as important as physical balance: an unbalanced composition makes the viewer uncomfortable. 

In marketing terms, visual mass is a measure of the visual interest that an area generates.

When there is no visual balance, a visitor may not see some elements and principles of the art and design - they are more likely not to consider areas that are inferior to others in terms of visual interest, so the information associated with them will go unnoticed.

If you want users to recognize everything you intend to communicate to them - consider developing a balanced design.

Three types of balance

There are several ways to achieve compositional balance and we describe them above.

Symmetrical balance is achieved when objects of equal visual mass are placed at an equal distance from the fulcrum or axis in the center. Symmetrical equilibrium creates a sense of formality (that's why it is sometimes called formal equilibrium) and elegance. A wedding invitation is an example of a composition that you will want to make symmetrical.

The disadvantage of symmetrical balance is that it is static and sometimes seems boring: if half of the composition is a mirror image of the other half, then at least one half will be fairly predictable.

1. Asymmetric Equilibrium

Asymmetric balance is achieved when objects on opposite sides of the center have the same visual mass. In this case, there may be a dominant element on one half, balanced by several less important focal points on the other half. 

The asymmetrical balance is more dynamic and interesting. It brings a sense of modernity, movement, life, and energy. Asymmetric balance is harder to achieve because the relationship between the elements is more complex, but on the other hand, it leaves more room for creativity.

2. Radial equilibrium

Radial equilibrium is achieved when the elements diverge in rays from a common center. The rays of the sun or the circles on the water after a stone has fallen into it are examples of radial equilibrium. Holding the focal point (fulcrum) is easy because it is always in the center.

The rays diverge from and lead to the center, making it the most prominent part of the composition.

3. Mosaic Equilibrium

Mosaic balance (or crystallographic balance) is a balanced chaos, like the paintings of Jackson Pollock. Such a composition has no pronounced focal points, and all elements are equally important. The lack of hierarchy, at first glance, creates visual noise, but somehow all the elements combine and form a unified whole.

2. Symmetry and asymmetry

Both symmetry and asymmetry can be used in a composition regardless of what type of balance it is: you can use symmetrical objects to create an asymmetrical composition and vice versa.

Symmetry is generally considered beautiful and harmonious. However, it can also seem static and boring. Asymmetry usually seems more interesting and dynamic, although not always beautiful.

  • Mirror symmetry (or two-sided symmetry) occurs when two halves of a composition, located on opposite sides of the central axis, are mirror images of each other. Most likely, when you hear the word "symmetry," this is what you imagine. The direction and orientation of the axis can be anything, although it is often either vertical or horizontal. Many natural forms growing or moving parallel to the earth's surface are characterized by mirror symmetry. Butterfly wings and human faces are examples. If two halves of a composition reflect each other precisely, such symmetry is called pure symmetry. In most cases, the reflections are not completely identical and the halves slightly differ from each other. This is incomplete symmetry - in life, it is much more common than pure symmetry.

  • Another visual art photography graphic design principle is Circular symmetry (or radial symmetry) occurs when objects are arranged around a common center. Their number and the angle at which they are arranged relative to the center can be any - symmetry is preserved as long as the common center is present. Natural forms growing or moving perpendicular to the earth's surface are characterized by circular symmetry - for example, sunflower petals. The non-reflective alternation can be used to demonstrate motivation, speed, or dynamic action: imagine the spinning wheels of a moving car.

  • Translational symmetry (or crystallographic symmetry) occurs when elements repeat at certain intervals. An example of such symmetry is repeating fence slats. Translational symmetry can occur in any direction and at any distance, as long as the direction is the same. Natural forms acquire such symmetry through reproduction. With translational symmetry, you can create rhythm, movement, speed, or dynamic action.

3. Alignment

Alignment creates a pattern sharper, more orderly design. Aligning elements allows them to create a visual connection to one another. This eliminates the clutter effect that occurs when elements are placed randomly. Aligning elements that are not close to one another helps provide an invisible connection between them. Alignment is one of the basic principles of design photography. It helps create order and organization between elements.

4. Repetition

Repetition reinforces a design by linking individual elements. It helps create association and consistency. Consistent element repetition is widely used in multi-page documents and websites. Elements of repetition can be simple things like color, shape, font, or even texture.

5. Contrast

Contrast allows you to emphasize or highlight key elements in your design. Contrast is created when two elements are complete opposites. It doesn't have to be color. It can be achieved by using fonts (classic/temporary), lines (thick/thin), and shapes (large/small), to name just a few of the ways to create a contrast. Contrast plays a crucial role in organizing information on the page. It directs the reader to where they should look first, or to the most important element. For contrast to work successfully, however, it must be obvious. It must have an impact.

6. Grouping

Grouping helps create organization. By grouping similar elements close to each other, you create a connection between those elements. Grouping provides focus and can give the reader an idea of where they should start and end their interaction with the design. This doesn't mean that elements should be placed together, it means that they should be visually connected in the white space. Grouping can be achieved through point size, font, color, etc.

7. Unity

This one of the 7 principles of art implies harmony in what you see in the photo. It refers to colors, concepts, or elements. Failure to follow this principle will result in a disjointed image.

How to Use the Principles of Art and Design in Photography

First of all, understanding the basic principles of design art develops a photographer's understanding of composition. One way or another, every photographer is a bit of a designer. The photographer better understands how to set the focal point in his composition. He begins to understand the importance of background textures and their compatibility with the main object of the composition. Even if there is a main focal point on the page, there can still be a visual mess. This happens when the rest of the page doesn't have its own clearly defined roles.

The other elements of the design do not argue with the focal point and with each other, they must be placed on a hierarchical principle: the main thing to bring forward and make a large, and ancillary to assign a less prominent role.

Proximity Theory

Beginners often stumble on this photography principle of design. It states that adjacent objects are perceived as a single group of meanings. Our eye unwittingly gathers similar things together, so meaningful connections also occur between objects of similar shape, size, or color.

To avoid such distortions, use different colors for text or place text blocks at a sufficient distance from each other.

Modularity

Modularity is a layout of rectangles. A module can be a block of text, a picture, or an infographic that took the form of a rectangle. Such modules on the layout are arranged in columns or rows. The foundations of module design were laid in the Swiss school of design in the 20th century, and since then, these elements and principles of art and design have been actively used as a simple and convenient way to organize negative space.

Photo editing with Luminar Neo

No matter how good your picture is, you can always improve it with a great photo editor like Luminar Neo. Its tools will surprise even the most hardened professional. The special feature of Luminar Neo is photo processing with artificial intelligence, but this is not the end. Try it and you won't regret it.

Conclusion

Design is an ever-changing world with its trends, main faces, and tricks. There are not and cannot be any ironclad rules, because it is creativity.

No designer has ever created his masterpiece from scratch. Everyone was once a beginner, and out of the pit of uncertainty, they got out with the help of knowledge and practice. Keep the principles of design photography in mind and don't be afraid to experiment. Develop a "designer's eye," create and enjoy the process and create your piece of art!


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