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How-to's

Hunting for Rhythms in Photography

Jan Stimel (photocyan)


Keywords: rhythm, patterns, tips_and_tricks, composition, inspiration

Many great pictures by Nikonians photographers from around the world use rhythm as a key element. It is, among leading lines and the rule of thirds, one of the simplest yet effective ways to create an impressive image.

In this article I would like to focus your attention especially to pattern and rhythm. There are many ways to use both in your photographs simultaneously although they have different functions. I will mention the differences between them first, and then I will show you creative usage examples and mention some simple rules.

You may own the newest Nikon D4s with a lot of equipment or a Nikon Coolpix compact camera, but it doesn’t really matter what type of equipment you use. The basic rules apply to all.

Pattern and rhythm are both very similar design elements because they use repetition to enhance important elements in a picture. Rhythm, as in music, evokes an activity and movement, it grants energy to an image. The repetition of similar elements makes the viewers’ eye focus and leads the attention from one point of the image to another. A pattern on the other hand can be seen as a repetitious texture, it has a something consistent within itself. The form of a pattern indicates that it continues outside of a picture as well and a pattern looks therefore more like wallpaper. A pattern has this two-dimensional look, which lacks movement.

Rhythm and pattern have many similarities. Both depend upon repetition of identical or similar forms, but the main difference is that patterns are more static and they continue outside of the picture frame, a rhythm is a strong element. It is vivid and leads the viewers’ attention.

Another way to describe the difference would be to imagine two large cemeteries. One is a military cemetery, with identical grave markers set exactly the same distance apart, and the other is a private cemetery, with the markers taking all shapes from crosses to statues and standard rectangular headstones. The military cemetery would be an example of a pattern, while the private cemetery shows the elements of a pattern, yet the individuality of each marker serves as that “third dimension” creating a rhythm. In short, patterns are easy to spot and rhythms require a more creative eye.

It is often the case we begin to experience our surrounding when we have time to look around. I shot the picture of the chairs (Picture 2) when I was waiting in a hotel foyer. As the time flew by I started to look for usual and typical things in the environment, as many photographers do when they get bored. I like the stainless metal parts and the equal color tone through in the whole picture. It looks very simple, abstract, rhythmical and soothing.


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5 comments

Alan Dooley (ajdooley) on May 21, 2014

Awarded for his frequent encouraging comments, sharing his knowledge in the Nikonians spirit. Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2017 Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the 2017-2018 fundraising campaign Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level of skill in several areas, especially photojo Ribbon awarded for his repeated generous contributions to the 2019 Fundraising campaign

This item was very thought provoking -- repeating patterns, leading lines, frames, positioning your subject to introduce tension -- are all tools that work. Thanks for sharing them in one package!

Jan Stimel (photocyan) on May 20, 2014

Thank you very much for your comments. I am very glad you like the article. Best regards Jan

Paul Carter MIET (aarcng) on May 18, 2014

Ideas are always welcome to enble creative thought - thank you

Charles Chesnutt (Chaschesnutt) on May 17, 2014

A fascinating new direction. It turns mundane into dramatic. Charles

Robert Jackson (BobbyJack) on May 13, 2014

I'v been looking for patterns but not rhythm. And now I will start looking for rhythm too. Great article

G