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Guide to Symmetry in Photography: How to Use It for Your Compositions

Many beginner photographers base their compositions on the rule of thirds. In the end, most real pros move on to slightly more advanced compositions based on the golden ratio. However, these are not the only ways to organize a photography composition. The possibilities are endless if you play by the rules or invent your own. Many great shots, for example, completely ignore the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. They introduce perfect symmetry within them for immediate appeal to the audience. Symmetry is something that you can base your compositions on. While more experienced photographers may intuitively sense symmetrical balance, some may lack theoretical knowledge. A deeper understanding of symmetry in photography will help most feel more confident choosing the perfect framing. What’s more, there are actually different types of symmetry that might be useful for your photography. This article explains which types of symmetry exist out there. You’ll find out how to use them for taking appealing and balanced photos. What Is Symmetrical Balance in Photography?

What Is Symmetrical Balance in Photography?

Symmetry surrounds us on a daily basis. One can find symmetry in architecture and nature, in regular everyday objects, and even in people. Mathematical symmetry means that the two parts of something are completely identical. By symmetry in photography, we mean balance and proportion that is pleasing to the eye. In most cases, photos don’t represent a pure, mathematical symmetry. You can get close to perfect symmetry if you shoot architecture. But when you shoot people or a scene without obvious lines or shapes that might visually divide a photo, it’s not so easy to find perfect symmetry. However, in photography, symmetry is not about full perfection, it’s about drawing a viewer’s attention with visual harmony. In photography, an image that includes symmetry has two halves balanced or equal in weight. For instance, this can be achieved by balancing the number of elements in two parts of an image or including the same elements in them. Since this is not a literal mathematical symmetry, sometimes it is called a symmetrical balance instead of just ‘symmetry’. types of symmetry in photography

Types of Symmetry

There are 3 most common types of symmetry that can be used in photography compositions. This is vertical, horizontal, and radial symmetry.

1. Vertical Symmetry

This symmetry appears when the left and right parts of something seem identical or symmetrical. Vertical symmetry is something that usually comes to mind when a person thinks about symmetry in general. There are so many examples of vertical symmetry surrounding us. For instance, most architecture is vertically symmetrical. Apart from shooting buildings and their details, you can take pictures with a vertical symmetry. This is when you shoot roads (if you place it right in the middle of a frame), or shoot street photography with other elements apart from buildings, such as road signs or street lamps. vertical symmetry in photography

2. Horizontal Symmetry

Horizontal symmetry is when the top and bottom halves of an image seem balanced or symmetrical. The most popular example of horizontal symmetry in photography is a landscape shot that includes water. The reflections on water create horizontal symmetry, as they mirror the objects. Photographers love horizontal symmetry. It allows them to mix it with other photography composition techniques – for instance, there is a symmetry in the top and the bottom of a shot, but an interesting object or a focal point lies on the intersection of lines in the rule of thirds.

3. Radial Symmetry

Radial symmetry is a natural symmetry of round objects. For instance, when you throw a rock into the water, it creates ripples that are naturally quite symmetrical. You can find radial symmetry in different flowers and circular-shaped objects such as wheels. You can search for radial symmetry when you shoot nature, water ripples, or urban geometry, isolating roundish objects to make it a point of interest within a frame.


Humans are naturally attracted to visual balance and harmony. This is probably why humankind began to create symmetrical buildings from the very beginning of their efforts with architecture. Symmetry is a great way to make your compositions more appealing to viewers, even if you use it partially. Experimenting with composition in your shots doesn’t mean you need any extra or fancy gear. You can try out different ways to organize your composition, from the rule of thirds to symmetrical balance. With your smartphone’s camera, you can still create mesmerizing images.