Symmetrie in fotografie

Op schreef ik een blog over het gebruik van symmetrie in mijn fotografie. Daar is de nederlandse versie te lezen, hieronder volgt de vertaling.

Look at us, humans. Symmetrical if you look one way, and completely unbalanced on the other. So you have to look a certain way, but when you do you’ll discover symmetry in many places. If you use symmetry as a photographer it can be a strong element in the composition. And be precise! “Almost symmetrical" falls directly through the basket, because the human eye is well trained to recognize symmetry.

As long as I photograph, I'm attracted by symmetrical compositions and have collected quite a few over the years. I notice that there are different ways to use symmetry in an image. Let’s have a look.


De Rose Reading Room in de New York Public Library | Rose Reading Room in the New York Public Library


Symmetry reveals patterns which bring calmth and balance in an image, making it pleasant to watch. These may be patterns that consist of the whole space, such as the pictures of the reading room at the New York Public Library, the town hall in Rotterdam and the baroque splendor of the Sao Francisco in Porto. But patterns can also be used to reveal a detail such as in the ceiling in the stair house of the Paris Opera or the magnificent structures in the dome of the Pantheon in Lisbon.


Dak van het Open Plein van het Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam | Roof at the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Dak van het Open Plein van het Scheepvaartmuseum in Amsterdam | Roof at the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands


Symmetry and abstraction are inseparable for me. I find it a challenge to bring symmetry to extreme simplicity, thereby creating an abstract image. Vitamins for the imagination of the viewer! For example, the roof of the open square in the Amsterdam Maritime Museum, is devoid of any connection with the building itself. Or the scaffolding structure which was drawn up in the newly built part of Erasmus MC - notice that this of course only a very temporary symmetry; this image will never be taken again. The already famous diamond structure in the roof of the new Central Station in The Hague lends itselve naturally to abstraction, and I found it nice to make one of the supporting pillars part of the composition.

Leading lines

Inkijkje in de Dom van Siena in de vroege ochtend, wanneer er nog geen mensen zijn in deze meestal erg drukke kerk | View into the Siena Duomo in Tuscany, Italy

Regularly, I use the concept of "leading lines" for even more power to put in the composition and to provide momentum. Sometimes open doors serve to lead the viewer, as in the photograph of the Duomo in Siena - like many of my photos you have to get up early to make such a picture (- :).

Add elements that tell a story

Grote hal van het British Museum in Londen, waar mensen wachten en rondlopen | Huge hall of the British Museum in London

Of the four functions of symmetry in an image in this article, adding elements really help telling a story in one picture. By allowing people in the image that make use of the space, it is easy to see on the story behind the picture. The examples make that clear. The car wash in Amsterdam is in itself a nice image, but the guy who cleans the car makes it complete. That applies a fortiori to the public areas that I often photograph. People swarm in the large halls of the British Museum or the station in Antwerp, and wait in the waiting room in Groningen Central Station. A woman with white coat makes it clear that the symmetrical image is made in a hospital, and the trains also speak for themselves in the newly opened station Vaartsche Rijn.

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