Symmetry In Photography: The Ultimate Guide

December 28

19 min. to read

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In this article, we will give you the answers to questions that novice photographers may have at the beginning of their creative journey. If you haven't yet learned what is symmetry in photography, this material is for you. Experienced photographers will also find useful information here to help improve their skills.

Photographers today very often use rules from classical art. This is the best solution that will always be relevant, the rule of thirds can be a great example. The fundamentals that artists used to use to interpret what they saw on canvas remain relevant today. This is the first thing we begin with when explaining the symmetry definition in photography. Using a few simple rules can help make any image more eye-catching to the viewer.

With the help of just one powerful technique works of art are created and harmonized: architecture, design, painting, graphics, and photos. But this phenomenon is not invented by man, it is spotted in nature. The human body, a flower, and a snowflake are all examples of symmetry in nature. In the world around us, complete symmetry is very rare. The number of objects having partial symmetry is much more. For example, some building facades, cars, and other objects. 

Just remember that the right photographic composition with some elements will take your technique to a whole new level. This is not just an article, but a whole guide that will help you open a new page of your creativity.

A brief definition of symmetry

For us to understand this topic in more detail, we must first begin by explaining the definition of symmetry in photography. This phenomenon occurs when certain objects or elements in the frame are reflected. This reflection can be either completely or partially mirrored. It all depends on the effect you want to achieve in the picture. You can also explain a little easier - you take a picture and just fold it in the center. If the two halves are the same, then you have a clear example of symmetrical composition. Looks simple enough, doesn't it?

As we said above, samples of this phenomenon are everywhere, you just may not notice it in real life. Nevertheless, we unconsciously consider symmetrical phenomena to be more beautiful. Surprisingly, this is how the human brain works. This technique is used not only by photographers but also by other creative individuals. It is quite easy to master. The main thing is to have the desire to read some theory about symmetry and patterns in photography and practice with your camera and photo editor.

What kinds of this phenomenon are used in photography

When you already know the basics, we'll move on to a more detailed explanation. Here the main aspect will be the location of the axis, as in geometry. There is nothing complicated, so you will figure it out very quickly. So now let's look at a few types of symmetrical photography.

Radial

Less common in the art of photography, but very often observed in architectural photography and compositions. You can also observe this phenomenon on flowers or plants in macro photography. It is symmetry in circular objects, where identical elements diverge from a central point. It helps to add depth to your photos in a very simple way.

Horizontal

This is one of the most common types of symmetry that you will most often see in images of scenery. Just imagine the forest and the outline of the trees, which are reflected in the crystal-clear water of the lake. It is not surprising that such photographs and pictures always arouse genuine interest in the viewer.

Vertical

Photographers also often use this technique when shooting the portrait genre. This phenomenon can easily be found in architecture as well as in nature. The halves of some subjects are reflected vertically. You can just unknowingly photograph buildings and then mark the perfect composition as you process the frame. It's all thanks to this phenomenon with proportional photography. Here we can use as an example a photo with a girl in the center of the frame, walking on the railroad.

How to use patterns in this case?

Patterns, are all around us in natural and man-made environments, giving photographers the opportunity to take spectacular and eye-catching photographs. But how do you use a pattern in your work? The composition we are considering in this article is quite often combined with patterns. To explain in very simple terms, it is a set of repeating elements (paving tiles, for example). Symmetry and patterns photography is a very interesting phenomenon that helps to create a stunning shot. Of course, you need to know the measure and not get too carried away with these techniques, because there has to be a balance in everything. You can use patterns to create a great composition.

A pattern is a simple repeating shape, color, or object. For the photographer, the use of such elements is the key to beautiful composition, which transforms bland photographs into something expressive and eye-catching. The professional must find them in the environment and use them as an advantage. Be sure to try combining patterns with symmetry in photography.

Which devices should I use for the ideal composition?

Of course, many photographers are immediately interested in camera settings and equipment to improve their composition techniques. First of all, you should understand that for reflective symmetry photography it is not so important to have an expensive camera or specific settings. It's more about your skill, so you have to practice a lot. Nevertheless, we can give you some useful tips on this:

  • Some cameras have a built-in level function. This is an incredibly useful aspect to help perfectly align the axis of symmetry. Be sure to check that you have this setting.

  • Still, there is one device that we recommend you use. You probably already guessed that it is a tripod. It helps to avoid the slightest wobble and to keep the axis straight, especially for horizontal symmetry photography. It's not for nothing that tripods are recommended for the landscape photography genre.

  • Try using live view, so you can be more critical of small details, look at all the patterns and build up a perfect photography balance.

It may take some adjustment to the camera to use the display instead of the viewfinder, but having a large screen on the back of the camera can be very helpful.

Recommendations for using this effect in pictures

As in geometry, a photograph is considered symmetrical if each half of the image is completely (or almost completely) identical to its opposite. Symmetrical composition implies two types of symmetry: perfect symmetry and imperfect symmetry. A photograph has perfect symmetry when each half of the frame is strictly identical to its opposite. 

Therefore, if you fold the image in half along the line of symmetry, each element will perfectly overlap. This type of composition creates harmony and balance of proportions in the image. The result is a calm image that is very aesthetic and pleasing to the eye.

In this section, we will provide some symmetry photography ideas so you can try something new for yourself. Be absolutely sure to try any of the options below.

Mirror reflections

This is a reflection of objects on various surfaces (water, building facade, sunglasses, and other surfaces). This reflection can be either explicit or weakly expressed. The most important advantage of such symmetrical pictures is that you can move the axis and create a perfect composition.

Reflections are found in nature and everyday life far more often than you might think. It's just that not everyone pays attention to this phenomenon. Use this technique as your trump card and be creative. Perhaps even a small puddle after the rain outside your house will become the basis for beautiful symmetrical photos.

Use of leading lines

Leading lines is a composition technique in which the viewer of your photographs turns to lines that lead to the main subject of the image. Leading lines pave an easy path for the eye to travel through the various elements of the photograph. They usually start at the bottom of the frame and guide the eye upward and inward, from the foreground of the image to the background, usually leading to the main subject.

The easiest place to find a leading line in examples of symmetry in photography is a road. Roads by their very nature lead because they go somewhere, give us a sense of movement, and lines often point so far inward that they reach a vanishing point-the place where two or more lines converge at theoretical infinity. When leading lines, such as roads, connect the foreground to the background of the scene, they help create a depth and dimension that draws the viewer to the pictures of symmetry.

Breaking the rules

You don't have to be completely fixated on symmetry, in fact, you can use these rules only partially or on a certain area of the image to add more creativity to your shots. You can also add an object to the photo, which will not be equally displayed on the other side, it will allow you to put accents and make the picture even more attractive to the viewer. Just imagine a castle with a staircase and rows of steps going left and right. It's a beautiful idea, but it could be made better by including a girl slowly climbing up the stairs.

Vertical symmetry photography or any other kind can also be created artificially, using an image editor. It doesn't have to be Photoshop or Lightroom. If you try other modern photo editors for post-processing, you'll be surprised at the extensive range of tools.

The finest examples in the genres of modern photography

Of course, this material would not be complete without symmetry photography examples. Let's take a look at a few popular genres in which you can easily use this technique. Symmetrical composition quite often gives the picture an artificial look. 

You should try to avoid this by adding extra lines or extra tonal spots. In a symmetrically constructed photo, the center of the frame can be unfilled, and the objects are placed in the right and left parts of the frame symmetrically relative to the vertical center line of the frame.

Portrait

The composition here will look much more effective if the shot is based on symmetry. It can be expressed in the arrangement of objects near the person or in the pattern of the background. Such a shot creates a sense of statics, and peace, and can emphasize the peaceful mood and pensive portrait. So you can easily create perfect symmetry photography at home if you are doing portrait photography.

Landscape

Here it is very simple, in nature the most common example of symmetry is the reflection on the surface of the water. Then you only need to place the symmetry line exactly between these two halves of the image. The location of this line will depend on the type of symmetry being photographed.

Architecture

Taking a symmetrical photo of architecture is not very difficult. You just need to find a scene that can be divided into two identical or almost identical parts vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. With practice, you will notice that symmetry in architecture is very common. To begin with, it is easiest to find this symmetry in high-rise structures and older buildings. To take some symmetry photos, you just need to walk the streets of your city.

The best photo editor to create symmetry

Above we have already talked a little bit about photo editors and found out that you can improve your photos by artificially creating symmetry in special programs. We suggest you use the modern and popular today image editor, called Luminar Neo. It differs from the analogs with the following advantages, which you will certainly appreciate:

  • It uses AI to optimize and simplify the photo editing process. Its artificial intelligence tools allow you to perform tedious and time-consuming tasks with a single click.

  • The app is designed both for professionals and beginners who want an easy-to-use creative editing app to improve their projects. Luminar Neo works as a plug-in for major photo editors as well as a standalone program.

  • If you're not interested in spending a lot of time on post-processing, this editor by itself is a great option for you. One of the most impressive things about this program is its interface. It's much simpler compared to Photoshop, and Lightroom.

Thanks to Luminar Neo you can easily realize any photography ideas concerning symmetry, even if you haven't spent much time with photo editors before. In addition, there are many tutorials on the Skylum developer's website.

To sum it up

Symmetry is a simple way to add interest and depth to your images. Remember that there are two kinds of symmetry. Perfect symmetry will create a sense of calm and contentment, and imperfect symmetry will improve the balance of your image while filling it with energy and easily drawing the viewer's eye to the desired object. Remember that the easiest and most effective way to make a symmetrical picture more dynamic is to break perfect symmetry by including an interfering element in the frame, which will then be automatically emphasized. It is often more effective and more attractive.

On the other hand, as the rule of thirds teaches us, not all scenes lend themselves to symmetry. With experience, you will quickly identify scenes with high potential for symmetry or asymmetry. In anticipation of acquiring this photographic vision, you may want to take two pictures for each subject. One using the rule of thirds and asymmetry, and the other with as much symmetry as possible. You can then easily choose the best of the two compositions in post-production and practice identifying the scenes in which symmetry is most effective.


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