Although using symmetry appears to break the rules of composition (because it usually involves placing the main subject in the middle of the shot, or dividing the frame down the centre), on the right scene or subject this can produce fantastic images.

Reflections in water are a common form of symmetry — and who can resist them, especially when the reflection is of a beautiful scene? You’ll also find lots of symmetry in architecture and engineering — think of suspension bridges, interiors, office buildings, the underside of old piers, the structure of an electricity pylon when viewed from beneath.

The key to shooting symmetry is finding the right viewpoint. If that symmetry exists in reality rather than being a reflection, there will be a prime position from which to see and shoot it. Keeping your camera level and square will also help you achieve perfection.


Having practised and mastered the so-called rules of composition, you are then at liberty to adapt them or ignore them altogether in pursuit of your own individual style.

It’s not crucial to have a unique compositional style — few photographers do — but it’s satisfying to know that your way of depicting the world is personal and different, if only occasionally.

The danger of sticking to the rules of composition is that you can easily end up working to a formula — always shooting landscapes with a wideangle lens, always including foreground interest, always looking for a focal point, always dividing the frame 2:1 between foreground and sky.

There’s nothing wrong with doing that — I do it often — but don’t be a slave to convention and always be prepared to try something different. I find that my compositions are more ambitious and creative when I shoot an image for conversion to black & white because the removal of colour is itself a movement away from normality and realism and that encourages me to be more adventurous.

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