Patterns are simply repeated shapes, colours or objects, ordered in either regular or irregular formations. As a photographer, using pattern is key to good composition and, when used effectively, can transform an otherwise bland image into something dramatic and eye-catching. Patterns are formulated all around us – in both natural and man-made settings. The key for photographers is firstly to find them, and then secondly to use the scene to our advantage.
Appreciating pattern will enhance your photographic work. It will help to develop your photographic eye and increase your appreciation for the correlation between shapes, colours and line in all aspects of photography. You don’t need any special equipment to maximise pattern within your work, just a well-trained eye and the ability to find a good point of view which maximises the appreciation of that pattern.
You can also find patterns by looking more closely at subjects. Macro images showcase patterns in nature that are not otherwise noticed. Light patterns can also make for interesting images, such as the way the sunlight shines through the pillars lining a walkway. Once you start noticing all the patterns that surround you, it will be hard to see anything else.
When using pattern in your work, it is important to maximise its effect by thinking carefully about composition. The first thing to consider is filling the whole frame with the pattern, which will increase the effect and drama of the shot as it means the eye has nothing to distract it from the pattern on the show.
You also need to experiment with the angle at which you shoot the chosen pattern. Some shapes and lines will lend themselves to being shot straight, with a rigid square structure, whereas other correlating patterns may be better captured from a more inventive perspective. Have a play around with varying angles to see what works best.
A final aspect to consider is the combination of pattern and space within a shot, with the possibility of emphasising a pattern by contrasting it with an area of plain colour or natural space.