Using Symmetry for Architectural Compositions

 In Tips + Tricks

Symmetry can be found in many places in architecture. Many buildings have symmetrical features, as it is an efficient way to design spaces and it looks pleasing. So, naturally, when shooting architecture, you might be drawn to symmetrical compositions!

There are a lot of rules in photography and symmetry is not always well regarded. Think about rules like “don’t put your subject in the center” or “don’t put the horizon in the middle”. The thing is, while rules are helpful as a beginner, they tend to hinder your creativity later on. Symmetry is a great tool, as long as you know why and how to use it.

I use symmetry a lot because I like the serene, contemplative effect it creates in architectural compositions. And that’s what matters: use symmetry to further the story you’re building in your image. If you want something dramatic, dynamic, then stay away from symmetry.

The most simple way to shoot is line symmetry, like in the image above. If you draw a vertical line in the middle of the image, the left part is the opposite of the right part. Don’t forget that line symmetry also works with bottom/top symmetry:

The hardest part of shooting symmetry is getting it perfectly right. If you’re a little off, the lack of symmetry will be visible and distracting. My first recommendation is to look at the environment and find ways to position yourself in the center of the space you’re photographing. Often, there will be lines or patterns on the floor that can help you get to the center of your composition. Take your time, as you cannot correct for that in post-processing!

If you have several layers in your image, you can align the centers of each element. In the image below, I align the tip of the pyramid in the foreground with the center of the diamonds of the larger pyramid.

Another way to find symmetry is through reflections. Because of how the light is reflected on the surface, the image is often not perfectly symmetrical, but it’s a great way to get unique images.

To make your image more interesting, I recommend combining other compositional elements. In the image below, I used leading lines and patterns to create a more compelling composition.

Now let’s talk about something more complicated to pull off: symmetry through a central point. It’s when every side of the image is symmetrical, like in this image below. You often get this kind of symmetry with ceilings. It’s hard to align yourself in all directions while shooting up. Make sure you use clues like the floor tiles and lines. Also, keep in mind that when you’re shooting straight up, your head and camera are likely a little behind your feet. It might be good to step forward slightly.

As you can see, there are many ways to shoot with symmetry, allowing you to create compelling compositions. On your next outing, use symmetry and share your shots in our Facebook group!

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