Week 7: Use repeating patterns to lead the eye in photography

If you peer over the side of the 6th Street bridge in Annapolis, you might see sailboats gliding effortlessly across the Chesapeake Bay. You will also see another great photo opportunity of boats tied up to the dock. 

Why in the world would you be interested in boats that are tied up to a dock? Because they provide an opportunity to show another compositional element, repeating patterns.

The numbered boats create a repeating pattern that leads the eye across the frame.

Showing patterns in your photograph is a great way to capture your viewer's attention. You can use the pattern to frame your subject, lead the viewer to your subject or become your subject.

Use patterns in one of three ways:

Regular patterns - This creates a predictable cycle following the same kind of element being repeated. It can also be a number of different elements being repeated in the same order. You can follow an orderly row of any subject into infinity, the edge of the frame, or a natural conclusion.

Breaking patterns - Once the eyes detect an orderly flow, one way to create interest is to interrupt the rhythm. Use an opposite or contrasting element as a tool to break the pattern. For instance, look for an opposite color or shape that differs from the rest of the other items.

Irregular patterns - Sometimes you can create patterns without repeating the same elements. An irregular pattern creates its rhythm by grouping similar items rather than repeating them.

Use a contrasting color to break the pattern.

When you create your patterns, remember that a tight cropping tends to work best. Take your pattern to the edge of the frame and let your viewer project the pattern beyond the image.


The Challenge

Create an image with a repeating pattern that uses either a regular pattern, breaks the pattern, or an irregular pattern.


Share your images with us

Once you have a great hero photo, post it in the comments here or tag it #composition21 when you post it on Twitter or Flickr.


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