Week 34 of the 52 Week Photography Project gave us the compositional challenge of “Repetition”. Repetition in a photograph gives visual interest to the image by grabbing the viewer’s attention and bringing them into the image. Repeating a certain shape or color in a photograph adds strength to the overall image. Repeat an object once or twice and it becomes interesting. Repeat it more than that and it becomes a pattern. Patterns are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Patterns elicit feelings of order and the viewer feels calm knowing what to expect next. Patterns and repetition help lead the eye across the image and assist in narrating the story. Used correctly, they can greatly impact the emotional response to your photo.
Repetition in real life can be boring. And patterns in a photo can fall flat too. There are a couple of ways that you can strengthen your composition when using repetition and patterns.
- Fill the frame. Emphasize the pattern. By filling the frame the viewer doesn’t know where the pattern ends. Some examples might be bricks on a wall, bottles on a shelf, or lines on the road.
- Break the pattern. Create visual interest and help tell your story by interrupting the pattern. In my photo above, I interrupted the repetition of the board planks with my son’s muddy feet. By catching him mid-step and hiding his face behind the rail, the image now tells a story about our adventures at the Barefoot Park. The pattern created by the planks fill the frame as well and balance out the image. Other examples might be a red apple on a shelf among green apples, a bed of flowers at the bottom of a fence, or a bee on the leaf of a flower bloom.
- Remember all your other compositional rules. It may be that the best place to focus that interruption is along the Rule of Thirds. The repetition could be created by a row of train car windows holding passengers looking out as the train passes by, using the technique of Framing. Symmetry is also something to consider if, for example, you are photographing a flower from above and capturing the repetition of the petals as they close around the center.
Repetition and patterns are just another tool in your toolbox when composing interesting photographs. The technique can help tell a story or capture abstract details. How have you used Repetition in your photography? Share your images in the comments!
Taken with a Nikon D750, Nikon 35mm lens. Settings were f/2, 1/4,000 sec, ISO 100.