No question about it – our eyes are built to spot patterns. Like the ever-popular leading lines, patterns hold our attention in a pleasing way, and can be used to direct attention to another focal point or in some cases, act as the subject!
Image Credit: @jooshengg
Canon 5D Mark III | EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Patterns are essentially just shapes, objects or colours repeated in a regular or irregular manner. Training your eyes to see patterns is an easy and fail-safe way to get an interesting shot. The best part – you don’t have to look very far or need any special equipment to get a compelling pattern shot. Just pick up that camera and follow a few guidelines.
Know where to look
Canon EOS 60D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM
The truth is, patterns are everywhere. Don’t believe it? Take a look around you right now and you’ll likely find something. It could be the print on a notebook or the way a plant’s leaves are arranged. Even on an ordinary table or walls, look closely and you might find wood grain or fabric patterns. Because patterns are so accessible, sometimes designed and sometimes incidental, just looking out for them opens up opportunities.
Image Credit: @leol.chan
Canon EOS 6D | EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM
Repetition is pattern
Canon EOS 5D Mark II | EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Regular patterns are the easiest to spot. Repeated in a consistent formation, these forms can appear in architecture or natural settings. Capturing regular patterns is best emphasised by eliminating distraction from the external environment to really emphasise the repetition. You can also experiment with angles and, in some cases, lighting to change the way it is presented or appears.
Canon 5D Mark II | EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Patterns in a collection
Image Credit: @estkyc_
Canon 5D Mark IV | EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Unlike regular patterns, the irregular ones take a bit more time to find. They repeat themselves, but not in an obvious manner. The objects themselves might not even be the same! It could be the way a queue forms at the hawker, or a series of bicycles parked near the bus stop – these formations are not as measured or perfect, but the repetition in the subject can create the pattern you seek. Because irregular patterns also require some direction for the viewers to identify the repetition, try to crop out anything that doesn’t serve the purpose.
Canon EOS 750D | EF-S18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
The human eye is drawn to patterns
Image Credit: @ongbazhang
Because our eyes find patterns so pleasing, it’s only natural that we imbue it in design. From prints, dots and stripes on our clothes, to the architectural design on buildings such as the Esplanade or even our iconic HDB blocks, all it takes to spot them is to head out and explore the streets. Sometimes it may not be as obvious as the design elements on the building itself, but instead a series of the building’s corridors, doors or walkways repeating itself that will create the pattern. Just take your time, wander around, and catch those repetitions.
Image Credit: @_battuta
Canon EOS 6D | EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM
Canon EOS 6D | EF24-70mm f/4L IS USM
Mother Nature loves her patterns too. In fact, that might even be the reason why we are programmed to love repeated patterns. To catch it in the natural world, you’ll often have to look more closely at the subjects. The repeats here tend to be more irregular, like the petals on the head of a rose, or the thorns on a large head of cactus. Animals too have been printed with signature patterns that readily identify their species – think the zebra or giraffe.
Image Credit: @swbenj
Canon EOS 6D Mark II | EF50mm f/1.4 USM
Step back to discover
Image Credit: @zethnov_gallery
Sometimes when you can’t find a pattern, just take a step back. And maybe a few more. Seeing things from afar lets us spot patterns that may not be so obvious or as dramatic as when we are near. Walking beside a traffic jam, you might not see it, but head up a bridge and look at the jam again and you might spot a pattern of cars, or if you’re lucky, a pattern of similar-coloured vehicles!
Image Credit: @highonmars
Canon EOS 5D Mark III | EF16-35mm f/2.8L III USM
Zoom in for another world
Image Credit: @teja_pst
Canon EOS 1100D | EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
And when all else fails, look closely at an object and chances are, there’s a pattern there. Some of them may not be very interesting at first glance but vary your zoom, composition and lighting and you just might find something unusual that keeps people guessing. With a macro lens, things get even more interesting as more textures appear, so give it a go! For those who like indoor photography, this is also the best way to experiment with patterns.
Canon EOS 760D | EF-S10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM
Take a break
Create some instant drama or visual interest by having a ‘break’ in your pattern. Imagine a red marble in a sea of white ones, or a duck egg in a carton of chicken eggs, get the picture? When you spot a pattern, especially outdoors, it can sometimes become even more engaging if you have something interrupt that pattern. So if you see a sea of office executives but an old lady appears, that’s your break! Be it people walking into the frame or the result of some mistake or chance, wait around a bit when you spot your patterns and you just might add another layer of interest to your shot.
Got your patterns sorted out? Capture your own creative take and post it on Instagram with the hashtag #CanonSG for a chance to be featured!