Repetition can often be boring in daily life, but capturing it in 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. Once you get an eye for spotting them, (it takes some practice) you’ll be amazed by what you see. You might even 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 see that in more detail.

Stress on patterns


To give the impression of size and large numbers, you can fill the frame with a repetitive pattern. This can be achieved by zooming in close enough to the pattern till it fills the whole frame. This move makes the repetition appear as though it’s exploding out, despite it stopping just outside of your framing.

A few examples of this technique include faces in a crowd, bricks on a wall or a line of bicycle wheels placed in the same angle. As a matter of fact, almost any repeated appearances of objects would do the trick. All you really need to do is to keep your eyes wide open.

Now break the pattern


Repetition in photography is commonly used to capture the interruption of the flow of a pattern. For example you may exploit this technique by photographing hundreds of red M&Ms, and then have one blue carefully placed somewhere in the bunch.

At times, you’ll find such broken patterns appear naturally around you. On certain occasions you might need to change the situation to a certain extent by interrupting the pattern yourself. To break a repetition, you might add a contrasting object, color, shape or texture. You may even resort to removing one of the repeated objects if you wish.

You will also need to pay good attention to where exactly you would want to place the break in the pattern. The rule of thirds might come in to play in such a situation as well. For example, do you think that the photographic example given above could be improved by simply placing a red bead slightly higher or lower in the frame?

Another important aspect to remember is the focal point in these shots. The broken pattern might be a logical spot to have everything focused sharply.

Always remember, that patterns create powerful and eye catching pictures, so be sure that you make the most out of it.

And finally…

While the idea is to think lateral, please note that there is a method to lateral thinking. Being different is fine, so long as the final product is pleasing to the eye. Therefore, while these are not the only ways to make your photographs different, at least they should prompt you to think in this direction and make the most of lateral thinking in photography. Best of luck!


~Zahid Javali