Using Shape, Pattern and Texture

Utilise them as basic elements of composition when they support and strengthen your image

In most photographs you will find that the greatest point of interest is a particular subject - a person or an object and as such we can say they are "subject oriented".


But you can also create a photo that holds your interest exclusively due to the shapes, patterns and/or textures it shows. You are then enjoying the image not so much for the subject as for its structure - the way it was seen and constructed.

In reality, both the subject and structure aspects need to be present in an image to differentiate as an artistic photo rather than a random snap.


A bold shape or outline in a photograph can be quite an attraction to the eye and you can structure your whole image around it. It might consist of one or several objects together in a way that forms a combined shape.


Shapes are often made to appear stronger when repeated into a pattern.


The best way to emphasize shape is by carefully choosing your viewpoint and using contrast.

You can use the viewfinder to check that you are in the exact position to see the best shape. Remember that small camera shifts can make big differences.


By contrasting the shape with its surroundings you can make it gain strength and emphasis. For this purpose you can employ difference in tone or colour of background and lighting as seen in the images below.

Shape_Boat_On_Land                   Shape_Boat_On_Land

Photo Assignment:

To get a practical experience follow our Photo Assignment to Capture Object Shapes Suggesting A, B and C Letter Shapes.


There are different ways that pattern can be formed in images. It can be create by the position of multiple three-dimensional shapes, like the house fronts in this image.


Or it might be no more than marks of different tones on a smooth , flat surface. Or it can be revealed on an even-toned surface through the effect of light.

Pattern_light Pattern_light

One of the problems with pattern is that it can appear monotonous especially if you fill up your picture with the pattern alone as in the image below.


You can help matters by breaking the pattern in some way, perhaps by having one or two elements in a different shape or colour.


Another way to create a variety in the pattern would be to photograph it from a steeply oblique viewpoint to get a difference in size.


Revealing the texture in the surface of your subject helps to make a two-dimensional photograph look three-dimensional. The visual appearance of texture suggests the character of a particular materials and reminds you how they would feel to your touch. It is texture that links the pattern and shape in a visual image form - each one of the three contributing to the others.


Texture helps to give your subject form and substance and thus adds character to what otherwise might be flat-looking tones and colours.


There are two main elements for emphasizing texture. One is finding appropriate lighting. If the subject's surface is all on one plane, direct sunlight from one side will separate out the raised and hollow parts. The more the angled light, the greater the exaggeration of texture in the subject.

If your subject contains several textured surfaces shown at different angles, harsh lighting from one direction may suit one surface but not the others making them appear flat or in shadow. You might find that diffusing the steeply directed light from above or one side will then give the best results.

The other essential for emphasizing texture is the ability to show fine detail by accuracy of focusing and no camera shake.

Looking for practical experience or just creative ideas - follow our Photo Assignment to Capture Object Shapes Suggesting A, B and C Letter Shapes.

Using Shape, Patter and Texture

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