Something that defines a lot of my photographic style is symmetry and leading lines (lines that lead you into the frame) - I like scenes that draw the eye towards the center of the image, and I like when there's a uniform quality to the overall composition. What's on the left is balanced by what's on the right. What's on top is balanced by what's on the bottom. Thankfully there's a few easy ways to ensure this uniform quality while composing your shots. The first one is the most basic. The grid.
Most if not all modern smartphone cameras as well as dedicated photo cameras have some sort of grid function. Usually it's a 3x3 or 4x4 - sometimes, like in the case of the Google Camera app you can select the "golden ratio" grid (my personal favorite). This will help you while composing to ensure everything is level, symmetrical and there's nothing distracting the eye. You want to make sure each of the boxes make sense. The center of the box should be your main focal point and anything in the outer boxes should be drawing your eye towards the middle. See below for an example of the grid in action.
Notice how the eye is immediately drawn to the person standing in the bottom middle block but the shape of them draws you upwards towards the center. All of the other surrounding blocks are also drawing you towards the middle. This also demonstrates how even in a "busy" composition we can still use the golden ratio to remain symmetrical and uniform.
We're surrounded by leading lines and symmetry in our everyday life - Most notably in architecture where this basic design principle is typically utilized to remain uniform and consistent. Perhaps that's why I enjoy shooting buildings and structures so much because it makes my life a lot easier when composing shots. The architects and builders have done the heavy lifting for me (quite literally) and all I have to do is frame everything properly.
Ever wondered why this shot of DUMBO in Brooklyn, NY is so popular? It's because of everything we discussed above. It's the symmetry of how the buildings line up with the Williamsburg Bridge and how the Empire State Building rests perfectly in its arches. It's calculated and planned. All you have to do is compose the shot from the right angle and you have a near perfect image.
This search of "DUMBO" on Unsplash demonstrates how many photographers have captured this gem of leading lines.
My last tip for creating well composed symmetrical shots is to have someone or something in the shot beyond just architecture. Much like Andre Benz demonstrated in their shot of DUMBO above, having the woman walk down the street adds a whole new dimension to the image. It feels more alive with her there. If you can head out with friends when you shoot (and they are patient) have them walk across streets, down alleyways, and stand in as a prop for you when need them. Make sure you return the favour though as it can be a bit of tedious process of trying to line them up properly with their surroundings. At least buy them a slice for the trouble after ;)
Here's some of my favorite shots that may seem unplanned or "lucky" but they are actually the result of numerous attempts of staging the right stride by, standing in the middle of the street, waiting for a stranger to walk in the perfect spot of the frame, and waiting for traffic or people to clear an area. With the tips of above, a little perseverance, and some patient friends - You can easily take shots like this with your own creative spin. The first thing you have to do though is just shoot it.
I've released all of my images displayed here on Unsplash for you to use as you wish. I've also incuded a few more from my archive. Enjoy.
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