We are always advised against placing the subject at the centre of the frame when composing our picture. Placing the subject at the centre normally makes the picture look static, boring, monotonous and so predictable. And yes I admit I agree with that. So where to place your subject if the centre which logically is the most suitable place and the centre of attraction in the picture? The answer we will get more often than not is to observe the rule-of-thirds or somebody who purposely tries to further complicate the matter would suggest the golden mean as if the art of composition is all about mathematical equation with fixed answer! How boring.
I believe that rule of thirds or golden mean can become your rough guide in composing the picture just because you want to avoid placing the subject at the centre and where exactly is the point to place your subject within the rule-of-thirds guide is entirely up to you. However placing the subject at the centre is not entirely wrong either especially if the subject can be composed in the perfectly symmetrical position. Perfectly symmetrical composition can be interesting depending on the subject you shoot and what you would like to show and express. It also looks as if you placed a mirror at 90 degree position on either half of the picture.
This type of composition also shows that the photographer takes extra care and thoughts about composing his or her picture before clicking the shutter. I noticed many professional photographers apply this technique especially those in landscape, nature, portrait and architecture genre. Just look around on the Internet and you will find plenty of pictures with perfectly symmetrical composition.
Symmetrical composition can be either vertically symmetrical or horizontally symmetrical depending on the subject and the scene we shoot.
The clock tower of The Sultan Abdul Samad Building
I purposely composed this clock tower in a vertically symmetrical position because it is perfectly symmetrical BUT what is not symmetrical is only the light – one side is brighter while the other side darker. This also accentuates its three dimensionality which is another element the we photographers must attempt to create since we are dealing with two dimensional medium.
Putrajaya by night
The sweeping landscape picture with vast reflection from the lake is normally composed horizontally symmetrical like above. This technique is normally adopted by landscape photographers when the reflection and the scenery are equally important.
Hot air balloon
A hot air balloon shot from underneath and composed horizontally symmetrical. Vertically it still occupies two-thirds of the frame, though. Hence, still observing the rule-of-thirds at the same time
A red hot air balloon
I love the vivid and striking colour of the red hot air balloon and composed it vertically symmetrical to emphasize its graphical feature. The flickering light adds interest and breaks the monotony of all red in the picture.
I zoomed in on this interesting pattern of a traveller’s palm and composed it vertically symmetrical to make use of its strong graphic and almost abstract look.
The boat's bow
Another ordinary object i.e. the bow of a fishing boat which was rendered abstract with the fully symmetrical composition contributed by its strong vivid colours.
A seasoned building in KL given a new facelift
A seasoned building in KL – Wisma Hamzah Kwong Hing – was given a new facelift and I was interested in its new glass panel with its protruding structure at each level which again makes the building abstract when shot at certain angle – and again this was shot fully symmetrical at vertical composition.
Happy shooting and happy composing