Every wondered how some images and photos just seem to jump out at you on Instagram, Pinterest or on a blog?
Have you looked at an Instagram feed and sighed at it’s balance and beauty?
Or seen images that made your heart flutter like butterfly wings?
I’m going to put myself on the line here and 100% guarantee you that unless it’s due to nudity, those images stand out because they are using design principles of some sort.
As I’ve talked about in my earlier post about crafting your perfect Instagram feed, there is a lot of advice about engaging online, knowing your audience etc etc but without great imagery, especially on somewhere like Instagram and Pinterest, you’ll blend into the visual noise. Even worse you’ll be ignored.
In Part 1 of my mini series about Colour & Composition on Social Media (with a particular bias towards Instagram because I have spent many years obsessing over and studying it), today we’ll look at the most basic but powerful design principles: Symmetry.
Symmetry is achieved when elements are arranged in the same way on both sides of an axis. Symmetry adds a natural balance to a design that is very pleasing to the eye and very easy to achieve in your own imagery. Usually you’ll find a point of interest in the centre of a picture.
Let’s look at some examples
Brandon’s composition is perfectly symmetrical but I love how the use of confetti brings movement and a sense of fun to this image. Blurring the girl in the background, further draws your eye to the ‘action’ in the centre of the book, as the confetti explodes out.
For portraits, don’t forget that composition helps to tell your story, reflect your style or attitude. Linda uses both of her hands, on either side of the axis, to create another point of interest. Your eyes are led from her glasses, to her hands and down to her funky boots.
A pair of glasses, a pair of hands, a pair of boots. A strong outfit balanced by a strong symmetrical composition.
Still Life & Flatlay
For me Caroline is the master of flatlay art and composition. Limited colour palette and meticulous styling make for a perfect symmetrical image. Notice that the heights of the spoons correspond on either side of the axis. No happy accident. This is the work of a master!
This image by Aurely is getting into the realms of an asymmetrical composition which we’ll discuss in a moment. What I like about this, is the tower is at a slight angle, turned towards the light. Also if you look closely at the spots you’ll notice they correspond on each side of the axis. They aren’t directly opposite each-other – that would be too obvious! Placing them at different heights helps draw your eye up, creating illusions of movement out of the tower and her hand, in a static image.
Even in a detailed image, the Moroccan tiled floor and ornate white archways really boost the power of symmetry. Drawing your eye towards Hannah and her lovely son in the middle of the composition.
For me the real magic happens when you break the rule slightly and use asymmetry. Where elements are different on each side of the axis.
In this image Hannah breaks the symmetrical rule and I love it! It would have been obvious to wait until Ali the horse was in the middle of the stable door. However placing the action at the side creates a happy tension. Yet the horses back has moved into the left axis bringing the two sides together in harmony.
Who doesn’t love a doorway right?! But with the beautiful blossom entering the picture from the right of the image and crossing the axis, a simple symmetrical doorway becomes a work of asymmetrical art.
The face on the left side of the axis near the middle is so brilliantly placed. Plus all those gorgeous triangular shapes and diagonal lines make this a stunning geometric asymmetrical image.
If you want to learn about composition Dominique does it brilliantly in her Instagram feed. The symmetry is on the horizontal axis this time. I love the asymmetrical mirror image of Dominique and her daughters hands and hot drinks. Capturing a lovely moment between mother and daughter.
Sawa makes the most gorgeous flatlay compositions with florals and cups of coffee. This may not jump out as a symmetrical composition. However positioning the cup and its handle on the horizontal axis actually splits the image into two.
Notice how the bottom of the strawberry on the right, and the top of the strawberry on the left are touching the horizontal access. You can draw imaginary lines through lots of elements of this seemingly random composition. That’s the beauty of it – the image looks effortless but is actually very considered.
It is so hard choosing imagery for these tutorial posts! And I could say so much more. Perhaps I should start a vlog about it?
I hope you have found this useful. Stay tuned by following me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Next time I’ll be tackling the rule of thirds. As always leave a comment with your questions or Instagram accounts that make your heart flutter.
Have an inspired day