Tips for Shooting Photos With Patterns

Learn How to Record Photos That Feature Repeatable Patterns

Chris Parsons / Getty Images

Kids love repetition. Just ask the parent or grandparent who has to read the same bedtime story over and over and over. Or watch the same movie over and over and over. If your kid loves the movie “Frozen,” you know exactly what I’m talking about.

While repetition can be frustrating in some circumstances, repetition in photography is something that can be eye-catching and pleasing, especially if it involves using a repeatable pattern.

Use these tips to incorporate patterns in your photos.

  • Don’t overlook opportunities or repeatable patterns. First, you need to train your eye to look for patterns. As you go through your day, chances are you overlook patterns, just out of habit, as you’re seeking information. When people try to grab your attention, such as with advertisements, they look to make you notice something that breaks the pattern or stands out from the background, for example, so you have to almost force yourself to seek out patterns.
  • Every pattern is not created equal. Patterns can consist of quite a few different things. For example, a pattern can be the repeating image in a chair cushion. Or a pattern can simply be a group of similar objects that repeats, such as a series of colorful apples in a bin or a football helmets worn by players standing in a group. Patterns can include interesting textures, or even a line of repeating objects, such as the lines of pine tree trunks here.
  • Make sure the pattern is the primary focus. When shooting a photo with a pattern, you’ll want to cause the viewer to focus on the pattern. One easy way to do this is to fill the frame with the pattern; don’t allow distractions or objects that break the pattern to appear in the frame, even at the edges.
  • Find consistent lighting inside the pattern. Make sure the lighting is even and consistent throughout the pattern. If you have a 20-by-20 set of bricks, you don’t want to frame the photo so that the bricks in one corner are affected by shadows when all of the other bricks are in sunlight. Such an inconsistency in lighting would break the pattern and distract viewers. Instead, zoom in on the the portion of the pattern that is consistently lit.
  • Maintain a sharp focus throughout. The same technique goes for your depth of field. Shoot with a large depth of field so that the entire pattern is in sharp focus. Having only a few objects in the pattern in focus, while the remaining objects are blurred, will be distracting, although you may be able to create some nice artistic looks with a shallow depth of field and a repeating pattern on occasion.
  • Using a break in the pattern to your advantage. Having mentioned consistency in your patterns, you also have the option of creating a distraction within the pattern, giving your photograph an entirely different point of emphasis. For example, if you’re shooting a series of bricks in a wall, having one of the bricks be a different color will break the pattern and create a point where the viewer’s eye can settle. Or, in the above-mentioned example of football helmets, maybe one player in the group isn’t wearing his helmet, which would break the pattern.
  • Opposites can break the pattern too. Sometimes, the distracting object can be a completely different object. Use an orange as the distracting object in a barrel of apples, for example. If you choose to create a distraction in your pattern, use this technique carefully. You don’t want to put too many distractions in the frame, which will de-emphasize the pattern you’ve selected. Most of the time, one object that breaks the pattern is enough to create the look you want.
  • If you break the pattern, composition matters. If you choose to include a distracting object, use care in how you frame the photo. In most cases, you do not want the the pattern-breaking object directly in the center of the frame. Use the Rule of Thirds to help you decide exactly how to frame the object.