Photography Cheat Sheet: Rule of Odds vs. Rule of Symmetry

Want to take better architecture shots? Check out Canon’s quick photography cheat sheet with some useful composition tips especially for architectural photography.

When you live in or travel to locations with beautiful architecture, it’s inevitable to want to capture their grandeur. However, you also want your photos to be a creative representation rather than dime a dozen snapshots. That largely relies on how you compose your shots. With this in mind, Canon assembled a helpful infographic that will serve as a handy reference to improve your composition, especially for architectural photography.

In their photography cheat sheet below, Canon stressed some of the challenges that come with taking photos of buildings and other architectural elements. Mainly, it can be challenging to frame these large structures in an interesting way, especially since they tend to have repetitive features. Your composition can also be drowned out by busy surroundings. But with the Rule of Odds and Rule of Symmetry, you’ll be able to create aesthetically balanced and interesting architectural snaps.

We’re all familiar with the Rule of Thirds, but it might be the first time for most of us to hear about the two rules brought up in the cheat sheet. According to Canon, the Rule of Odds uses the tendency of the human eye to be drawn to odd-numbered groups. This is because we can get our gaze to flow between them without splitting them into pairs. Groups of three or five usually work best for this technique. The Rule of Symmetry, meanwhile, is all about finding and capturing harmony. In contrast with other composition techniques, the objective is to minimize the contrast between visual elements like size, shape, colors, line, and texture.

So, when is it best to use these rules? If you want to photograph a building or structure with repeating elements, you can use the Rule of Odds to break it down to groups of three or five to let your viewers’ eyes focus better on the image. Otherwise, if you’d like to emphasize geometric shapes, you can turn to the Rule of Symmetry to use these shapes to create a balanced and powerful composition that immediately catches attention.

When composing your shots with the Rule of Odds, keep an eye out for eye-catching repeating patterns or elements such as arches, windows, pillars, and doors. Crop the scene to include only three to five of these objects. When photographing minimalist architecture, you can also include three to five external elements to make your shots more dynamic and add a sense of scale.

Composing with the Rule of Symmetry basically involves positioning yourself at the center of the building, so one side mirrors the other and creates a perfectly symmetrical shot. You can also use reflections for more surreal and creative results.

Looking for more helpful photography tips? Make sure to check out our collection of handy photography cheat sheets so far!