10 tips and tricks for creating stunning symmetrical images

First published:
May 9, 2022
February 14, 2024

10 tips and tricks for creating stunning symmetrical images

First published:
May 9, 2022
February 14, 2024

Cover image by Gheorghi Pentchev

Discover the beauty of symmetry in photography and learn how to create stunning shots with these top tips

Symmetry is considered to be one of the ultimate signs of beauty. Whether it’s a person’s face, a beautiful object or a scene reflected in water, it’s a visual that never fails to captivate. As photographers we can take advantage of this to create bold compositions and eye-catching images.

Here we’ll explore a host of ways to do so, plus a few editing tricks for creating your own symmetry…

1 Seek out symmetry

Once you start looking for symmetry you can find it all around. Many objects like cars and planes have a symmetrical front-on view, so frame up from this angle for a strong composition. Buildings are often perfectly symmetrical too, so you can make use of this for striking architectural photography. Even around the home you can find all sorts of perfect symmetry, from kitchen utensils to flowers in the garden.

Symmetry can be found everywhere, but perhaps most of all in architectural photography. Here a wide angle lens creates a bold perspective of the Louvre’s pyramid. Photo by Edward Andress - f/8 | 1/160s | ISO 100

2 Reflections in water

Reflections in water can result in beautiful symmetrical scenes. Puddles, ponds and lakes are all ideal for this, or anywhere where the water is not flowing too fast, and where the wind isn’t strong enough to make a choppy surface. A low angle is often best - especially for puddles like this - as this brings the camera in close to the water to emphasise the reflection.

A low angle of this street in Cambridge transforms a simple puddle into a handy compositional aid. Photo by Doug Wallace

3 Look for lone trees

When seeking out symmetrical reflections in landscapes look for details and objects that can be  isolated from their surroundings. One subject that always works well is a lone tree. A bold, singular subject like this draws the eye and creates a point of interest in the scene.

Seek out a lone tree next to a body of water, like the famous birch in Llyn Padarn, Snowdonia. Photo by Jed Pearson

4 Window of opportunity

Street windows can help you create eye-catching symmetrical images, especially if you hold the camera right up to the surface of the glass and shoot along the pane. Reflections in windows tend to come out stronger when the area being reflected is brighter than the area behind the window. Think of a patch of bright sunlight on one side of the street, with the windows on the other side in shade. Water reflections are similar, which is why puddles on dark concrete are great for reflecting sun-drenched scenes beyond.

Reflections in windows can be great for quirky street photography. Photo by Stefan Ferreira - f/3.5 | 1/2000s | ISO 500

5 Get underneath, or on top

By placing the camera directly underneath a landmark like a pier, a bridge, or a set of pylons, we can shoot along the line of the object for stunning architectural symmetry. Similarly, positioning yourself directly in the centre of a bold symmetrical line like a road or a walkway can create a strong composition with leading lines converging in the distance.

When framing from directly beneath structures like bridges or piers, a tripod helps to fine-tune the composition so you can perfect the angles. Photo by Tony Brierton

6 Look up

Sometimes it takes a different viewpoint to find symmetry in our surroundings. Buildings and courtyards will often form interesting symmetrical shapes when viewed from directly below, so remember to look up. Similarly, buildings and landmarks can be reduced to bold symmetrical shapes when captured from directly above with a drone or from a high vantage point.

A vertical view of Berlin’s Quarter Schutzenstrasse symmetrical courtyard. Photo by Gheorghi Pentchev - f/8 | 2s | ISO 64

7 A light at the end of the tunnel

Tunnels, corridors and underpasses are ideal for symmetrical photos, as they often have uniform walls that converge at a point in the distance. Wait for a person to appear in the perfect spot at the end of the tunnel to give your symmetrical scene a point of interest.

Tunnels like this can create beautiful symmetry, especially if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel to frame a person in silhouette. Photo by Francisco Martínez

8 Broken symmetry

If you can find a symmetrical scene with a single point of interest that breaks up the otherwise mirror image then this can make for a great composition. Think uniform apartment blocks with a person looking out of a single open window, a symmetrical face with a single earring, a bee on a perfect sunflower.

The cyclist here breaks up an otherwise symmetrical scene for a striking composition. Photo by Matthias De Boeck - f/4.5 | 1/125s | ISO 100

9 Shoot double exposures

Many cameras feature a double exposure mode that can be used for all sorts of creative effects, including symmetrical abstracts. Simply engage the mode and take a shot of an object with a strong edge, like the outline of a building against the sky. Then flip the camera 180 degrees, line up the scene (the camera may give you a helpful preview of the effect to help you compose) and take a second shot to blend with the first. Of course, you can also do this in Photoshop or Affinity Photo with the Screen Blend Mode.

An in-camera double exposure taken on London’s South Bank. Photo by James Paterson - f/8 | 1/320s | ISO 100

10 Smoky symmetry

Here’s a fun Photoshop technique that takes the idea of flipping images one step further. You’ll need a few smoke images against black. Open one into Photoshop, copy it (Cmd/Ctrl+J) then flip it (Edit > Free Transform > Flip Horizontal). Change the layer blend mode to Lighten, then grab the Move tool and drag it to one side to create a symmetrical smoky shape (you might need to crop outwards for extra space). Bring in other smoke images and repeat the process. You can use layer masks to fine-tune what is visible and the Liquify filter to re-shape layers. Build up the effect to create an eerily symmetrical bat-like shape, or any other figure that springs to mind.

Flip images taken against a black backdrop and blend with Photoshop’s Lighten Blend Mode for a fun symmetrical effect. Photo by James Paterson - f/11 | 1/250s | ISO 100
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