Symmetry and Reflections in Photography

A look at how to use Symmetry and Reflections to create amazing images.

October 06, 2023

There is something about photos with reflections that grabs our attention and imagination.

While there are all kinds of reflections, the most fascinating are undoubtedly symmetrical reflections with a beautiful mirror effect.

It can be photos of landscape or urban photos. Day, night, backlight, color, or black and white, no matter. Everything is possible.

As you start to think of how to make a reflection photo, the first question is what kind of reflective surface should you use? Fortunately you have many options.

Water of course makes a perfect mirror which you can find in many forms such as lakes, the sea, and even small puddles.

When photographing water surfaces, it works best when the water is as calm as possible for a sharp reflection that is not blurred by ripples created by the wind. If the reflection is as sharp as the subject it adds strength to the photo.

But I find that a reflection slightly blurred by the ripples of the wind, or some mist, brings mystery to the image.

Reflections are not just for nature images. While out in the city you can find reflections in man made surfaces such as mirrors of all shapes and sizes, buildings, even shop windows.

In this creative symmetrical photo, a reflective table was used for a mirror.

The Composition

While thinking about symmetry, the question that often arises is whether to use a framing respecting the rule of thirds or not.

Are symmetrical reflections are a good opportunity to forget the rule of thirds?

I often ask myself this question.

My answer is that I usually photograph two versions of a single image. One with the horizon in the middle of the image, as if you were folding a page, (half-and-half) and the other respecting the rule of thirds, (1/3 or 1/4).

Having multiple versions lets me choose the image I feel does the best job at creating atmosphere for the desired composition. I can then consider if I want to give more importance to the sky, or to the rest of the image.

In these two photos of the same scene, the top one is a 50/50 composition with equal parts sky and sea. The bottom image is a thirds composition where the beach and water fill one-third of the image, with two-thirds clouds and sky.

One version is not better than the other, but the half-and-half version creates a more classical image.

This could be interesting in architecture or to give an harmonious, zen mood to the image.

Still, on the other hand, a photo respecting the rule of thirds can be dynamic.

Even if it is best to avoid a 50/50 front centered framing, it is up to you to determine what you prefer, or what best suits the image you are trying to create.

You can also break the monotony of your centered composition by including an engaging foreground in your framing.

So far, we have mostly looked at horizontally symmetrical photos of landscapes. Urban photography can also make good use of horizontal symmetry.

For example, water features in cities allow us to visualize the buildings and structures in new ways.

You find urban photographs with vertical symmetry, when the right side and the left side are similar, reflected by a mirror or a window.

More simply, you are not obliged to make a composition in the whole frame. One thing can be the subject and its own reflection makes the symmetry.

In addition to reflections and symmetry, the rock and her mirror image in this photo also make great use of negative space

Birds in water are a good subject to explore symmetry as we see in these photos.

In conclusion, there are a multitude of possibilities to include symmetry in your compositions to create original photos.

TOPICS: essence of photography

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