What does symmetry mean? How does it relate to composition in photography? Basically, symmetry means that if you fold a picture in half, each side would be a mirror image of the other. When we come to photography, the concept becomes less strict. After all, we are not trying to follow mathematical rules, but rather attempting to create an aesthetically pleasing image.
It’s all about creativity. Whether the picture is exactly symmetrical or not doesn’t matter. Like all art, it’s more about storytelling. What is it you are trying to say with your photograph?
Some of my pictures in previous posts are examples of using symmetry in composition, like Pink and Trapped in Filling the Frame. You can see I used it in Fire Ghosts and Balance in the post about using Negative Space too. Now that I think of it, I probably use symmetry quite a lot, I’m not sure why. Maybe balance in photography is soothing, just as it is in life? Who knows.
Portrait of a House ( Header Image )
I shot the above image in Westport, I was fascinated by how the top of the building looked like a face, hence the title. It’s an example of exact symmetry. I liked it in this instance, but you don’t always need it.
Another example of perfect symmetry, this time using reflections. Reflections are great for using this composition technique. This image also follows the Off Centre Framing suggestion, so that your eye is more inclined to explore the whole image. This picture was shot in Kildare during a time of epic flooding in Ireland. It was used on the RTE weather website.
Here, the symmetry is broken by the foreground rock. Sometimes having a break in the symmetry can add edginess to the photograph, make it more interesting. The photograph was shot in Kylemore, near Leenane, one of my most loved locations in Ireland.
You need a strong focal point to make your image worthy of interest. Here, I used the feather and its’ reflection as my subject. It’s not exactly symmetrical in mathematical terms, but I hope it has a balanced, calming effect.
Beckett in Balance
This is an example of a picture where each side is not an exact mirror image of the other. But each side has the same balance and I think it works. It was taken in Dublin, just after the Beckett bridge was erected. I spent hours waiting for this, I wanted the balance right.
Windmills of my Mind
Here I was going for the Fibonacci number, that place where nature and science meet. So even though there is symmetry, there is also freedom as shown in the stem. You see, you can experiment as much as you want. Remember, there are no rules in photography, only tips.
Lines and Curves
Not an exact mirror image, yet balanced on each side by the gates. I think if she was standing straight it would be too static. In photography, symmetry doesn’t need to be perfect, sometimes it’s better if it isn’t.
Most of these images can be viewed on Flickr.