How to Use Symmetry to Improve Composition

The black and white photo made in the Mirabell Gardens in beautiful Salzburg, Austria is a great example of how to improve composition through symmetry.

This photo was made in the grounds of the beautiful Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria. Being full of texture, tonality and shape it was a standout for rendering into black and white.

Searching for Symmetry

While just a small slice of the gardens it does, in some ways, represent the highly structured nature of the location.

Ultimately this photo is about symmetry. You’ll notice the way many pairs of elements mirror each other on either side of the larger planter in the middle of the frame. For example the two curved stone shapes in the foreground and the two planters in the background. The relationship of these elements to each other is what gives this picture such a definite sense of order and balance.

I’m not worried that the flowers on the right side of the frame are not mirrored on the left side. That might begin to look contrived. I think the resulting space on the left side of the frame suggests an almost negative space which folks will connect to the flowers on the right. It’s the symmetry throughout the rest of the image that would make that happen.

What’s in a Pic

Photos can be about all manner of things, including the following:

  • Subject Matter (e.g., trees, mountains, sheep, people)
  • Moods and Emotions (e.g., darkness, bliss, happiness, fear, anxiety, melancholy)
  • Themes (e.g., environmental, the seven sins, the human condition)

I think it’s worthwhile pointing out that photos can also be based upon and about composition. While this photo was made in the grounds of the Mirabell Gardens, it’s actually a study of composition. And symmetry is the underlying principal that underpins the composition within this photo.

What Are Your Photos About?

And why can’t even a simple photo of your cat be underpinned with great composition. It may be what’s needed to elevate the picture from a mere snapshot to a great photo.

My photo from Mirabell Gardens is a simple enough image where color was not a primary visual element. So, to enhance the texture, tone and shapes within the image I removed the color. A very simple task in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Further emphasis on the shapes resulted from careful placement of individual subject elements within the frame. And there’s your example of how symmetry can improve composition. I hope it helps.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru