The Principles of Design in Photography

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The principles of design take the Elements of Art and organize them in a single piece of art. While these apply to any media in art, I will be using them specifically for photography.

1. Balance

Balance is arranging the elements in a piece so that there is an equality from one side to the other. A symmetrical image has perfect balance. Balance can also be achieved by asymmetry or radial arrangement. Below are an example of both poor and good balance.

The Principles of Design in art - Balance The Principles of Design in art - Balance

2. Harmony

The dictionary definition of harmony is “a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts;congruity”. This happens in art by using similar elements through out a piece that bring it together in a “pleasing” way. Harmony can be considered simplicity.

I chose this image to represent a good harmony. The orange and yellow leaves are all around the frame, bringing it together in a simple way. The white water is also simple and creates a “harmony”. This is one of the most difficult principles to grasp.

Principles of Design in art - harmony

3. Pattern/Rhythm

Pattern or rhythm is simply repeating an element in such a manner. This will cause the viewer’s eye to move around to each element.

The Principles of Design in Art - Pattern

4. Unity

Unity is taking the parts of a piece of art and unifying them in to something better as a whole. Composition is a great way to do this. This image could be separated in to each part as its own piece, but together they become a unified composition.

The Principles of Design in Art - Unity

5. Contrast

Contrast is easy. It is similar to adding contrast to an image overall, but this is done by using the elements. You can create contrast in an image by using complementary colors or differences in light and dark.

The Principles of Design in Art - Contrast

6. Proportion

Proportion is using the size of an object to give it more or less importance. Finding an image that uses this purposefully was difficult. In this image, the size of the sky was dramatically greater than the ground, giving it importance.

The Principles of Design in Art - Proportion

The above image was done through composition. This next image gives importance by lens distortion and placement. The rocks in the lower part of the frame appear huge, giving them more importance.

The Principles of Design in Art - Proportion

7. Variety

Variety is exactly what it sounds like, having variety in your elements! The image on the left has variety by combining a sunset sky, the bridge, and the middle ground of the trees. The image on the right has variety in each of the shells. By differing the kinds of shells, I’ve created variety that still maintains unity in that they are all shells.

The Principles of Design in Art - Variety The Principles of Design in Art - Variety

8. Movement

Movement is one of the simpler principles to learn; I actually used it a lot when discussing the Elements of Art. The goal of creating movement is to lead the viewer’s eye all around the photo and land on the focal point. The image below does a great job of that using line and tone.

Pricinples of Design - Movement

In the future, each principle will be explored further with its own blog post. The more detailed posts will go further in to how these principles can be used for photography! Be sure to subscribe with your email to receive updates! If you haven’t checked out The Elements of Art, you’ll want to do that as well!

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