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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.