Symmetry is a photography composition technique that draws attention to specific elements and brings balance to an image. Symmetry is helpful in many types of photography, including landscape, portrait, and still-life photography. Varying types of symmetry can create different visual effects; this article will explore how photographers can use symmetry to create beautiful photographs that stand out from the crowd.
What is Symmetry
Symmetry balances two halves of an image, ensuring that identical elements are on either side of the frame. Symmetrical images can give viewers a sense of harmony and peace and a sense of order and control in an otherwise chaotic scene, leading to a more powerful impact.
On the other hand, asymmetrical images allow photographers to create dynamic compositions with various effects that draw viewers’ attention. Asymmetrical images break up the monotony, are distinct, and movement to the frame.
Different Types of Symmetry
Symmetry in photography is when two sides of an image match, creating balance and harmony within the frame. There are three main types of symmetry in photography – horizontal, vertical, and radial. While it might seem simple at first, mastering these three types of symmetry requires practice and experimentation for photographers to achieve their desired results.
Horizontal symmetry is when the elements on the top and bottom of the image mirror each other such as mountains reflecting in a lake.
Vertical symmetry is when elements on the left and ride sides of the frame reflect each other, such as a building mirrored against the windows of a different structure.
Radial symmetry is when elements around an axis mirror each other, such as a flower petal surrounding its center. One benefit of radial symmetry is it helps create interesting patterns and shapes while emphasizing elements like texture or color in the center.
Tips for creating Mirror Images
A general rule for recognizing symmetry is to look for repeating patterns, search for pairs of objects, and note any parts evenly spaced out from each other. Here are some tips for creating symmetry in your photographs:
Embrace Lines & Patterns
Look for patterns such as trees in a straight line or buildings repeating similar shapes, which can create interesting effects when shot from unusual angles or perspectives. You can also look for leading lines that draw viewers’ eyes towards two different points or corners within an image, creating balance through their converging angles.
Use Symmetrical Shapes
Look for shapes resembling symmetry, such as circles, squares, or triangles. You can also add elements into an unbalanced scene, such as a bridge stretching across a river or elements leading up to a subject, like stairs ascending into the sky.
Focus on Reflections
Reflections are one of the easiest and most effective ways to create symmetry within your photographs. Look for reflective surfaces like still water, shiny objects, or windows to get the perfect symmetrical reflection. When shooting reflections, ensure you have even lighting across both sides of the image and use a high shutter speed to freeze any waves or movement in the water.
Stand In The Middle
If you are photographing a landscape or architecture, try to find a viewpoint that looks directly down the center of the scene. This will help create an image with even sides and balance throughout.
Tips for Perfecting Symmetrical Balance In Post-processing
Use Cropping Tool Gridlines
Cropping photos in post-processing is a great way to enhance and perfect a symmetrical scene. Editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom have built-in tools like rulers, guides, and grids to help you accurately compose symmetrical images. For example, the “x” and “+” grids provide a guide to place the subject in the center or along the x or y axis to achieve perfect symmetry.
level your horizon
Using the Auto Level to level the horizon in Lightroom is relatively simple. Lightroom’s crop tool allows you to crop your photo and adjust its size if necessary. In addition, the crop tool provides an option for manually adjusting the horizon or automatically leveling the horizon.
The transform feature utilizes Adobe’s advanced algorithms to analyze areas affected by lens distortion or uneven horizons and adjust accordingly. It uses a variety of parameters such as brightness, contrast, and tone to level any crooked lines or portions of an image that are off balance. It also identifies straight edges or vertical lines in an image, which can help with proper leveling. You can also manually adjust yourself or use the guided tools if the auto feature does not work.
Symmetry in Portrait Photography
Portraits are a classic example of symmetry in photography. Generally, portraits feature the subject centered in the frame and looking into the camera or at a slightly off-angle. This creates balance on the subject’s face, drawing attention to the person’s facial expression and other details.
Symmetry in Still Life Photography
In still-life photography, symmetry can emphasize the details of the subject. When shooting still-life, you will want to focus on repeating elements such as patterns, shapes, or lines. Additionally, using props or mirrors to create a symmetrical image can effectively draw the viewer’s eye to the details in the photo.
Wildlife photography is an excellent example of symmetry in photography, as many animals exhibit beautifully symmetrical shapes and patterns. While some species may not appear to have symmetrical features, such as a zebra’s stripes, the right perspective may reveal remarkable symmetry. For instance, a flock of birds flying in formation or the birds’ flapping their wings. Other examples of symmetry in wildlife include reflections in water or animals facing each other. Additionally, mammals like deer or elk often result in beautiful symmetrical patterns in the antlers and faces, drawing attention to their magnificence.
Doors and windows
Doors and windows are naturally symmetrical and can create pleasing patterns that draw attention to the scene. This effect becomes even more pronounced when multiple pairs of doors or windows are placed side by side. The repetition of the same shapes, colors, and lines creates an eye-catching effect that compels viewers to explore deeper into the image. Photos featuring doors and windows also work well with other composition techniques, such as leading lines, to further emphasize the symmetry.
Nature provides us with so many examples of symmetry that it might seem impossible to list them all here! One way to find symmetry is by observing patterns in leaves, tree lines, flowers, and reflections in the water. For example, a tree-lined path creates symmetry on each side of the trail. Flowers also have a symmetrical pattern with petals evenly spaced around the bloom’s center.
Symmetry is also found in larger objects, such as mountains and cliffs, where the geological formations take on similar shapes on each side.
Urban and architectural photography
Many urban settings include lines and curves that can create stunning symmetrical images. Examples include vertical columns or a row of streetlights along the road. You could even find symmetry within patterns formed by shadows and reflections. Look for repeating shapes such as doorways, windows, or arches and lines such as railings, fences,, or staircases.
Symmetry plays a vital role in photography as it adds a sense of balance and stability to an image. Additionally, symmetry can help draw the viewer’s eye toward key elements within the photograph, such as a person’s face or a particular object. Furthermore, when it comes to architecture or landscape photography, symmetry can be utilized to create interesting patterns or shapes that further emphasize the beauty of the structure or environment.