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Using Symmetry In Architectural Photography

When I started out in photography my influences weren't other photographers but movie directors.  I loved how the best directors could tell stories and create mood with the use of visuals alone and I tried to replicate this in my photos.  One of my favourite directors is Wes Anderson.  His trademark technique is the use of symmetry.  He composes scenes around a central point or character in the frame.  It goes against the accepted rules of composition, such as the Rule of Thirds, but by carefully constructing a scene he makes it work.


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The more of Anderson's movie's that I watched the more I found myself using symmetry as a compositional tool when setting up my own shots.  While it occasionally worked with landscape photography it wasn't particularly successful as nature is rarely perfectly symmetrical. 

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Where this technique works best is in urban settings when shooting streetscapes, building and interiors.  Photographing cities and towns can be difficult because there is so much going on that it can be very distracting when trying to isolate a subject or ensure that the viewer of the resulting photos see what you were trying to capture.  I found that I could get quite striking images by looking for symmetry in this chaos.  

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As I continued to evolve and learn as a photographer I used this technique more often.  When exploring buildings, I would be on the look out for design elements that would work best for the shots I wanted to get.  A perfect example of this was when I visited the National Gallery of Ireland.  As I wandered around the galleries I was studying how each room was laid out and how they were connected to each other.  This is what I wanted to try and show in the photos that I took.

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When I set up my photography business I found myself gravitating towards Architectural Photography and it has now become one of the main areas I specialize in.  When photographing buildings for clients using symmetry is a very useful tool for capturing design elements and architectural details.  A lot of work goes into planning and designing the projects that I photograph so it is important that I ensure that this is evident in the images I deliver to the client. 

Architectural Photography is one the genres of photography I enjoy most.  I can take my time composing shots and experimenting with different points of view but ultimately the goal is to capture the essence and design of whatever project I happen to be working on.  No two projects are alike and that is what keeps it interesting.

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On larger projects such as commercial buildings, apartment blocks or house estates using a symmetrical composition is very useful for showcasing the vision of the architects. 

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On these larger sites it can be difficult to capture the scale and overall design from the ground.  Drone photography overcomes this issue by allowing me to get a different point of view.  With a drone there is a temptation to just fly it as high as you can, point it in the general direction of the building or site you are trying to photograph and hope for the best.  I employ  the same techniques when using a drone as I do when taking photographs on the ground.  The amount of control that I  have over the position of the drone in the sky means I can compose shots in same way as I would with  a camera on a tripod.  

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When shooting interiors the use of symmetry works for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, and most importantly, it helps to showcase the work that architects and interior designers have done on the project.  It also helps to give a sense of depth and leading lines to guide the viewers eye into the image.  

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Even if the room or other location that I am shooting is not perfectly symmetrical in design using this technique still works.  It can give an almost 3-D like quality to the photos.

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On a lot of fit out projects the use of symmetry can be an important design feature so I have to make sure that I reflect this in the images that I take.  With Architectural Photography all horizontal and vertical lines must be straight and this is even more crucial when capturing different elements of a completed fit out.

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As I mentioned at the start, symmetry is often frowned upon as a compositional technique but it definitely has it's place when combined with all other techniques that I use. These images are only a small sample of the work that I have done.  There are a lot more examples in the Architectural Section on this site. 

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