Using Repetition In Your Photos
By D.J. Herda
Just as repetition in speech, writing, and graphic arts can create dramatic effects, repetitive elements appearing in photographs can also create drama. Repetition tends to grab the viewer’s eye.
Here are a few tips for using repetition effectively:
1. Keep your composition simple – Exclude everything except the repeated elements. For example, if you’re shooting a series of columns on a verandah, there should be no people, windows, trash cans etc. that might compete with the pillars for the viewer’s attention.
2. Use light effectively – Not all the elements in a scene should be lit equally. By having some of the elements fall off into shadows, you’ll create a natural “frame” for your subject and thereby direct the viewer’s eye.
3. Focus selectively – Instead of having all the repetitive elements in sharp focus, try using a narrow depth-of-field by shooting with a long telephoto lens, using a wide lens aperture, or moving in closer to the subject. By focusing on a specific point in the scene, you’ll guarantee that the viewer’s eyes will automatically gravitate to that spot first. By defocusing the outer areas of the scene, you’ll add dramatic effect to the most important part of the shot.
4. Observe the direction and strength of the light illuminating your repetitive subject – Strong overhead natural light is usually the least attractive type of light, while using angled or diffused light can strengthen a photograph’s impact. Natural directional lighting also adds highlights and shadows to the scene, and hence drama. Remember: If the light appears too “flat,” come back later in the day or earlier the following morning when it’s more directional.
5. Try to find an eye-catching point-of-view from which to capture your image – A diagonal or tilted composition often adds an added element of drama to a scene. If, on the other hand, you’re working with a strong symmetrical composition with dominating horizontal and vertical lines (say, the thousands of windows on the face of a skyscraper), try to compose the shot so that all of the lines are well balanced while trying to eliminate all tilting lines.
6. Think carefully about whether to shoot color or black-and-white – Oftentimes, the less color present in a scene with a repetitive subject, the more dramatic the elements of the photo will appear.