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Using Repetition and Patterns in Photography

While repetition in the humdrum of daily life can at times be a little boring – capturing it in your photography can create an image with real impact.

Life is filled with patterns – many of which we overlook due to the business of our days – however once you get an eye for spotting them (and it takes being intentional and some practice) you’ll be amazed by what you see and you’ll wonder why you didn’t incorporate them into your photography before.

When it comes to capturing repetition in photography a couple of techniques come to mind – you can either emphasize it or break it. Let me explain with a few examples:

Emphasize the Patterns

Filling your frame with a repetitive pattern can give the impression of size and large numbers. The key to this is to attempt to zoom in close enough to the pattern that it fills the frame and makes the repetition seem as though it’s bursting out (even if the repetition stops just outside of your framing).

Some examples of this technique might include faces in a crowd, bricks on a wall, a line of bicycle wheels all on the same angle etc. Almost any repeated appearance of objects could work.

The picture of bottles (left) gives the sense that there could be hundreds or thousands of them – even though there could be as few as 20-30.

Breaking Patterns

The other common use of repetition in photography is to capture the interruption of the flow of a pattern. For example you might photograph hundreds of red M&Ms with one blue one.

Sometimes you’ll find these broken patterns naturally appearing around you and on other occasions you might need to manipulate the situation a little and interrupt a pattern yourself.

Broken repetition might include adding a contrasting object (color, shape, texture) or removing one of the repeating objects.

Pay particular attention to where in your frame to place the break in the pattern. It might be that the rule of thirds comes in to play here (the example to left might be improved simply by placing the red bead slightly higher or lower in the frame).

Also consider your focal point in these shots – the broken pattern might be a logical spot to have everything focussed sharply.

This week I’m setting myself a little assignment to get out and take some shots that emphasize patterns and repetition. Like I said above – it can take a little practice and intentionality to see them. I hope you’ll share some of your own pattern photography in the forums.

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Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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