How to Use Repeating Patterns in Photography

In Rules of Composition by PixinfocusLeave a Comment

Repeating patterns are a compositional element of photography that every photographer should try to use.

For other compositional elements read also: Diagonal lines

Find Repeating Patterns

Patterns occur naturally all around us- all we have to do is seek them out. Typically patterns can always be found where graphics repeat themselves. For example, you can find patterns within shapes, lines and colors. Patterns do not have to be perfectly symmetrical. Naturally occurring patterns can be seen in synchronized swimming from fish in the ocean. When patterns are naturally formed such as those in nature, the result is beautiful.

Patterns are usually not considered to be the subject of an image, however they can be. By looking around your environment for patterns, you are bound to find some exciting ones. For example, start by paying attention in your daily routine. When you are at home, in the car, on the train or at work, find patterns that attract your attention. The more you look for patterns, the easier it will be to spot them in the future. Patterns in photography enhance the image.

Fill The Frame With Repeating Patterns

When capturing the pattern through your lens, it is very important to allow the pattern to fill up your field of view. There are numerous ways to accomplish this. For example, you can move closer to subject. Zooming in to the subject is also an option, however digital zoom should be avoided due to image quality. In order to keep your image quality high, move closer to your subject (pattern).

When you allow your subject (pattern) to fill up the entire frame, you will achieve a more dramatic result. This is a great way to remove size from your images. Solely focusing on a pattern will allow your viewer’s to analyze and study it without knowing how small or large it is.

Shooting at the right focal length will eliminate lens distortion. You can also use a photo editor afterwards to correct this.

Regular Patterns

Regular patterns are easy to spot. They produce a beautiful result when photographed, especially when there is color to the pattern. For example, soldiers in red jackets standing in perfect formation make for a great effect. Utilizing different viewpoints and angles is a great way to capture the most dramatic effect of your pattern. Rows of geometric shapes/ other shapes are known as regular patterns. Some other examples of regular patterns would be a row of trees or a honeycomb.

Irregular Patterns

Irregular patterns are intricate and not as easy to spot. For example, objects that are randomly positioned but close together form an irregular pattern. Irregular patterns are not governed by geometric rules. Some examples of this would include a forest floor with fallen leaves and parachutes in the sky. Neither of these examples are regular patterns, however they are still considered patterns.

Emphasize the Repeating Patterns

Using a pattern to fill up your frame will allow your viewer to loose scale of the image. This is beneficial when your intention is to only focus on the pattern. When your pattern is close enough, the repetition of the pattern is evident and appears to be overtaking the photo. As long as the repetition is used from edge to edge in your photo, it will create an illusion to the viewer (even if pattern repetition ends just outside of the frame).

Examples of this include bricks on a building, bicycle wheels or faces in a crowd. To your viewer, there could be hundreds of patterns just outside of the frame. This is the desired effect when emphasizing the patterns. Allowing the repetition to be featured throughout the image is great for keeping viewer’s focus.

Breaking the Rule of Repeating Patterns

Breaking the pattern is perfectly okay. Including an object which breaks the repetition can be beneficial. For example, a leaf stem can be used to break up the pattern on the leaf. If the photo only used the lines on the leaf as a pattern, the image would feel cold and bland. By incorporating the stem, the pattern is naturally broken up and more appealing to the eye.

The object used to break up the pattern should not be overpowering. If the object is too large, it will disrupt the effect of the pattern. Using an element such as a handrail to break up patterns on stadium steps is a great way to create a more aesthetically-pleasing effect for viewers.

See more example of repeating patterns here.

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