How to use symmetry to take travel photos that stand out from the crowd – guest post by Darin Rogers

by Heather Cowper on 18, April 2012

In this guest post, Australian photographer Darin Rogers shares how you can use symmetry to make your travel photographs stand out from the crowd. You’ll find more photography tips in Darin’s e-book Capturing the journey: A beginner’s guide to the basics of travel photography.

One day while walking through downtown Sydney with my camera, I noticed how the sun shining on a polished marble building façade created a highly reflective surface, almost to the point of being a mirror. I love reflections so I stopped and played around for a while, working with different compositions, trying to find some interesting way of capturing people as they passed by.

Mirrored surface of a building façade – Sydney, Australia Photo: Copyright Darin Rogers

Mirrored surface of a building façade – Sydney, Australia Photo copyright Darin Rogers

Eventually, I found that by placing the camera directly on the surface of the wall, and with the help of a wide-angle lens, I was able to get something exciting. Then it was just a matter of snapping a few images of different people walking past and hoping for an interesting story. The main reason this image works, I feel, is that by placing the camera directly on the reflective surface I was able to get what is essentially a symmetrical composition.

Snake River – Eastern Washington State, USA Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Snake River – Eastern Washington State, USA Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Symmetry is when one half of the image mimics or mirrors the other half. This can occur along either the horizontal or vertical axis, or even in both directions at the same time. Symmetry in an image develops a certain level of tension in the composition, which works to create interest and hold the viewers attention. In a sense, part of this tension occurs because a symmetrical image violates a number of other compositional rules we’ve been taught: “don’t place your horizon in the center,” the Rule of Thirds and “don’t center your subject.” But with an appropriate subject, composing it to form a symmetrical composition can provide an arresting image.

Big tropical leaf – Palawan, Philippines Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Big tropical leaf – Palawan, Philippines Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Ballard Locks – Seattle, USA Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Ballard Locks – Seattle, USA Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

True symmetry rarely occurs in nature, although reflections in lakes can sometimes come close. Even human faces are not entirely symmetrical. There’s usually a slight difference, such as one ear that’s lower than the other or a mole or freckle on one side of the face. I have a good friend who insists that he only be photographed from his right side, declaring the left side to be ‘ugly’. I find it amusing, although I comply. While there probably is a difference, I personally don’t consider one side of his face to be less photogenic than the other.A subject doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical, however. Most of the images I’ve included here are not entirely symmetrical but are close enough for the principle to be effective.

Teotihucán ruins – near Mexico City, Mexico Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Teotihucán ruins – near Mexico City, Mexico Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

So next time you’re traveling or even just out walking with your camera, keep your eye open for subjects that might make for great symmetrical compositions. And remember, a subject doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical to make a good symmetrical image.

Confucius Temple – Tainan, Taiwan Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

Confucius Temple – Tainan, Taiwan Photo: copyright Darin Rogers

My thanks for this guest post to Darin Rogers, a freelance writer and photographer based in Australia. You can see more of his work at www.darinrogers.net and get more tips on travel photography basics from his ebook Capturing the Journey: A Beginner’s Guide to the Basics of Travel Photography.

Read my review of Darin Roger’s photography e-book here. The cost of the e-book is $10 and for any books that you buy through the links on this page, I will receive a commission which will help support this blog.

This article is originally published at My Blogging Journey. You’ll also find lots of great travel stories, videos and podcasts at our travel blog at Heather on her travels

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Doug McArthur April 30, 2012 at 18:20

Enjoyed the part about breaking rules. Well done article.

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admin April 30, 2012 at 20:29

@Doug – glad you enjoyed the article and photos

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Mary Sandoval May 1, 2012 at 21:31

Nicely written and supported by a variety of good examples. I would like to see more from Darin.

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admin May 2, 2012 at 08:29

@ Mary Glad you enjoyed the article – do take a look at Darin’s website if you’d like to see more of his work and of course you may want to consider his e-book too.

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Micki @ TheBarefootNomad May 16, 2012 at 05:30

Thanks for this Darin!
As a photographically challenged travel blogger (sigh), I’m constantly working to make my photos better. You’ve laid out some nice tips that will hopefully lend themselves to a little creativity.

I love how you’ve taken some very ordinary scenes and objects and made them interesting using this technique. Much appreciated.

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admin May 16, 2012 at 08:09

@Micki Thanks for the comment – I too love Darin’s photography and the way he manages to make everyday scenes look extrordinary

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