Lesson 43: Patterns

Today we’re going to return to a basic photography concept for inspiration.  Early on, we talked about filling the frame, the rule of thirds, and symmetry as different ways to create interesting compositions in your photos.  By composition, we’re talking about the arrangement of the stuff in your frame.  We also talked about inclusion and exclusion when it comes to deciding what to put in the frame and what to keep in focus.

Today, we’re going to talk about repeating patterns.  Sometimes, something that might seem ordinary and not worth photographing can become very interesting we we select a pattern from what we’re seeing and fill the frame with that pattern.

One of the aspects of what makes an interesting pattern in a photo is the 3 dimensional aspect of the subject.  For example, here are a couple of repeating patterns that don’t work so well to my tastes:

But, when we take a repeating pattern that has some dimension to it and add an angle to help guide the eye into the photo, you start to get something more interesting.  Compare the begonia angles and the walkway angles side-by-side:

Gardens create interesting patterns to work with almost by definition–the gardener has probably carefully grouped together different types of flowers to create patterns pleasing to the eye.  In this particular garden, I found lots to work with.  Not only are the plants grouped to form patterns, but the plants themselves contain patterns, such as the large hosta.  The hosta has rib patterns in its leaves, a pattern of white marks at the edge of each leaf, patterns of repeating leaf shapes, and the pattern in which it grows.  It works well in color and it works in black and white against a similarly patterned fence:

I particularly like to have a surprise in my photos that contain a repeating shape.  For example, one flower that stands out from the rest, fallen petals, a complimentary color in the background.  These are the kinds of things that make the pattern more obvious because there’s an exception.

A field of flowers can create more random patterns.  If you look at the photo that shows a field of flowers vs the photo next to it that gets in closer and just shows a few flowers as a random arrangement of repeating shapes, it give it a totally different look at feel (these were taken with a DSLR, sorry):

Your Assignment:  Look for repeating shapes with interesting textures and/or lines that can help draw the eye.  Try taking pictures of these repeating patterns from different angles and different distances.  Try using different apps–Camera Awesome is always great for realistic photos.  The black and white examples were taken using Hipstamatic with the Helga Viking lens and Black Keys film.  Do some patterns work better in color or B&W?  Do some work better from far away?  Think of photos you may have seen of the tulip fields in the Netherlands–if you haven’t see any, do a quick Google search on “tulip fields netherlands” and click on images to get an extraordinary number of examples of ways to shoot these repeating patterns).  Are there times when you could think about repeating patterns to enhance the way you, say, take a picture of a flower?

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