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What Parallelism Is and How to Use it to Improve Your Photography

What Parallelism Is and How to Use it to Improve Your Photography

I’ve all the time had a fascination with geometry and man-made buildings, their perfection has a robust attraction on me. It took me time to understand that what I appreciated most wasn’t essentially their symmetry or the straightforward repetition of shapes however the parallelism between the varied parts of the development of a picture.

To raised perceive what parallelism is, you first want to deconstruct images and deliver it again to its essence. A photograph is mild, shapes and colours (or tones, if we discuss black and white images). These are the visible blocks that type a photograph. Typically there are similarities between these totally different elements, for instance, an oblong shadow on the bottom within the foreground projected by a visitors signal and the oblong form of a window of a constructing within the background.

I’ve the conviction that our eyes and our brains are naturally attracted by these “connections”, these visible similarities that encompass us. I’m in all probability much more delicate to them due to my previous profession in graphic design.

For me, pictures grow to be extra fascinating once they have visible hyperlinks between the elements that compose them, it’s not a necessity however it brings just a little one thing extra. It’s just like the cherry on prime of the cake.

On this article, I’ll clarify to you the several types of parallelism and how to use them to additional enhance your photographer eye on the long run.

Observe: The next is only subjective and mirror my very own findings, they shouldn’t be adopted to the letter however used as a base for additional experimentation.

Parallelism in nature

Some individuals consider that nature and every part that envelop us is organized in a rigorous method. The order of issues isn’t trivial, from the alignment of planets to the cells inside our physique, there’s an underlying system that makes our world someway structured. There’s even sometimes a unity and regularity in fauna and flora.

If you take a stroll within the woods the timber that encompass you’re a finite variety of vertical strains pointing on the sky, the sensation of unity is on this case brought on by the repetition, the parallelism of the trunks. Similar goes for a sequence of mountains, the curves of mountainsides mix collectively and type a mound of sentimental strains that look alike.

Hodler, Ferdinand. Lake Thun, Symmetric reflection. 1905. Oil on canvas.

We will additionally take the celestial vault and its hundreds of seen stars, would that imaginative and prescient nonetheless be as lovely if every of these factors of sunshine the place of various form, measurement, and shade?

Parallelism within the human determine

Our anatomy is filled with similarities, symmetry, and asymmetry. We simply have to take a look at our left and proper aspect, the opposition of our arms, the area between our eyes, the repetition of our fingers.

This goes even additional with our garments, the pleats and folds varieties repeated strains. Our actions are sometimes shaped by two or extra of our limbs. Our determine, slender, is a line that will get on along with different human beings round us.

A crowd grouped round a speaker, a gaggle of associates crossing the road (or the Beatles Abbey Street album cowl), a line of individuals ready for the bus. These are all parallelisms.

Photograph by Elizaveta Porodina for Vogue Ukraine 2015

These two individuals above that stare upon one another are an excellent instance of parallelism in images. Take a look at their hats, the silhouette of their faces, and the lapels of the person coat contrasting towards the sand within the background, which form is oddly comparable than the lady face. The empty space between them and on the edges of the body, they’re additionally very comparable in space and form. These are little particulars that we don’t essentially discover at first sight however they converse to our unconscious. Our photographer eye takes delight.

Guests on the Musée Rath in Geneva taking a look at a Ferdinand Hodler portray referred to as “Eurythmie”

The image above is one other instance of parallelism within the human determine. Within the portray “Eurythmie,” 5 males sporting a white cape are strolling on the similar velocity, deep of their ideas and arched over the bottom. “Eurythmie” actually interprets to rhythmic concord, are these clergymen or hermits in concord with themselves or with God?

I selected to photograph the portray together with the foreground museum guests, they’re aligned similarly than the themes of the portray creating one other layer of parallelism within the body.

Development rules

We noticed earlier than that a photograph is an meeting of visible parts and that a few of them are linked to one another. There’s various development rules, strategies that may assist you take the varied visible “blocks” composing a scene and get them organized. A photograph could be constructed following guidelines, identical to how an architect would design a home.

Word: I strongly encourage you to break guidelines from time to time.


We’re surrounded by vertical buildings, ranging from the partitions that type our homes and the buildings in our streets. Verticality is to me the simplest development precept to put into apply, as it’s probably the most represented in city areas. By together with two or extra vertical parts in your body you’re already creating parallelism. Listed here are a number of examples.

Samuel Zeller, Nationwide monument of Scotland in Edinburgh

I shot this photograph above whereas on a visit to Scotland, I used to be there to make pictures for my first guide, Botanical, and I additionally took a while for myself to discover numerous cities. In Edinburgh, there’s a hill with a monument on prime of it that appears like part of an historic Roman temple and function twelve columns. Numerous vacationers are taking footage of themselves standing in the midst of the central columns, however I went to the opposite aspect and waited till this couple confirmed up.

I framed two columns and the couple to give a way of scale, and whereas doing so I additionally realized that I created a parallelism. The 2 columns are a vertical parallelism to the 2 individuals, and there’s even a second repetition for those who think about the individuals’s legs, which mimic the columns as nicely. It provides the picture a rhythm and an fascinating construction.

Samuel Zeller, Lausanne lakeside

One other instance: a photograph of three metallic poles used to the docking of ships in Lausanne a metropolis in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Leman. They don’t seem to be completely straight however they create a verticality and a repetition within the body. The reflection within the water turns into a part of the composition as an extension of the poles themselves.


Similar as verticality however rotated ninety levels, jokes apart it’s in all probability one of many best development rules to discover in nature. The horizon is usually a great start line to construct up parallelism in your pictures, search for parts which are comparable to this line. Listed here are a couple of examples.

Samuel Zeller, Crans-Montana Switzerland

How can mountains shot in a vertical orientation be a very good instance of horizontal parallelism? Nicely when you decompose the picture above you’ll discover that it’s manufactured from three planes, the foreground hill with the home, the denuded rocks behind it and the chilly grey mountain within the background. These three areas of the pictures are separating the body in a horizontal means. By layering totally different parts in your photograph on prime of one another you’re instinctively utilizing this horizontality precept.

Photograph by Darren Brogan of the Alisa Craig, a small island west of Scotland

The very delicate picture above has a bit greater than meet the attention. We already noticed that parallelism may also be based mostly on textures and colours and right here the gradient from the ocean is reflecting the gradient displaying on the island itself, it’s additionally a gradient that repeats itself within the sky. These parts are all parallel to one another in a horizontal means. Utilizing the horizon line undoubtedly helped right here in build up the composition of the picture, it acts as a base.


Once we take into consideration symmetry we image a form that turns into precisely like one other in case you flip, slide, or flip it. However symmetry doesn’t exclude it’s reverse, asymmetry, it ought to be an entire. Asymmetry and symmetry are massive contributors to magnificence. Cease contemplating the purely mathematical facet of it and embrace its duality. Listed here are a number of examples of pictures which are exposing of their development this precept.

Photograph by Jarrod Pimental

Two boats in a dry dock, a pure and easy photograph. The composition is simple but in addition masterful, the 2 strains shaped by the hull are converging and directing the viewer eye to the middle of the body. The symmetry created right here is imperfect however that can also be the great thing about it, if it was geometrically actual it wouldn’t have the identical fineness.

Photograph by Sergio Larrain/Magnum Photographs. Santiago, Chile. 1955 ©

Sergio Larrain is one other photographer that I like, he was a real grasp and determined to give it all up for a religious life. When you haven’t examine his work I recommend that you simply take a look at this text by Lars Mensel. I included the picture above as a result of for me it completely represents the duality between symmetry and asymmetry. There’s a parallelism between these two youngsters, they’re each sleeping, they’ve the identical calm faces and hair but they’re not precisely mirrored.

Good symmetry is chilly, imperfections give life and I really like life, that’s how French-American sculptor Niki de Saint Phalle put it up and I couldn’t agree extra. Occupied with stability in your pictures fairly than symmetry in its geometric facet is an effective start line.


I initially needed to identify this precept “repetition” however I noticed that it might be too restrictive. You’ll perceive why right away. Entropy is in all places round us, and all issues come and go. There’s this perpetual move and cadence in life. The beating of your coronary heart, the waves on the shore, the music you pay attention to, even this text is outlined by a rhythm between paragraphs and photographs. It’s in all probability my favourite development precept to play with.

Samuel Zeller, Nazaré Portugal

A number of years in the past I used to be strolling down the seaside of Nazaré, Portugal once I observed this door on the finish of slightly road. It jogged my memory immediately of the geometrical compositions of Dutch painter Piet Mondrian that I had seen many occasions earlier than in numerous museums. When you look a bit nearer you begin to discover the various horizontal and vertical strains shaped by the totally different colours of paint and the 2 white gutters.

Then when you maintain wanting you’ll perhaps see that the various rectangles, the window within the door, the door itself, the underside a part of the door, the 2 electrical panels and all the opposite “invisible” rectangles outlined by the coloured elements and divided by the gutters. This photograph has a posh construction, a rhythm.

Photograph by Harry W. Edmonds

Rhythm may also be a repetition of parts. Harry, who’s operating a weblog referred to as Photographer’s Word, is a superb inspiration for me, this image might be considered one of my all time favourite from his physique of labor. By wanting on the world from above we higher discern its composition. There’s no marvel why we’re attracted by pictures shot with drones, it’s not simply because it permit us to see the world from a unique vantage level however it’s additionally as a result of it allow us to discern the patterns and the rhythm that’s throughout.

On this specific case, the picture was not shot with a robotic flying system however in all probability from a bridge or a constructing. Subsequent time you’re outdoors together with your digital camera, attempt to discover these parts that repeat themselves, intersect and play with one another and get a couple of of them in your body.


The imitation and resemblance of parts can be utilized as a development precept. We will discover that in biology and evolution too. For instance, the Phasmatodea or stick bugs who mimic the facet of small twigs to higher camouflage themselves in nature. Our brains are excellent at making visible associations. Listed here are a number of examples of parallelism that share this precept.

Photography by Alicja Brodowicz

This photograph above is a part of a much bigger collection referred to as “Visual Exercises” by photographer Alicja Brodowicz which I featured earlier than on Fujifeed, the weblog I edit. It’s an train of associations — black and white diptychs displaying two very totally different topics that look alike. Right here the arms on the best are mimicking the intersection of the 2 cactus stems on the left. Parallelism doesn’t essentially have to occur in the identical body, it may also be utilized in collection (for instance when you’ve got an expansion inside a guide with two photographs) or right here in diptychs.

Photograph by Sebastião Salgado from his ebook “Kuwait, a desert on fire”

Sebastião Salgado might be my favourite modern photographer and his monograph on the disaster of the torched Kuwaiti oil fields is hauntingly lovely. I discovered this photograph above to be a fantastic instance of parallelism, the feel of the hearth could be very comparable to the water being poured on the firefighter. It’s a mirroring between two very reverse parts. It creates a visible hyperlink that’s serving to the narrative and aesthetic of the picture.

Samuel Zeller, Cactaceae pereskia from my collection Botanical

This can be a photograph that I took for my ebook Botanical, the venture itself accommodates a few hundred pictures but this is likely one of the most appreciated. There are a number of causes to it (composition, shade distinction) however considered one of them is the resemblance between the leaves and the shapes created by the water droplets. They share the identical construction, like a tree department dividing itself into smaller twigs. There’s a pure mimetism occurring between these parts that could be very pleasing to the attention.

Ferdinand Hodler concept

A Swiss symbolist painter with no conventional educational artwork background and an infinite supply of inspiration for my images, that’s how I might describe Hodler.

He was satisfied that magnificence and aesthetics are based mostly on an underlying order — a symmetry and a rhythm. Most of his work have a really graphic facet and they’re composed utilizing parallelism, a notion that he borrowed within the 1890 and that was first launched by Charles Blanc in “Grammaire des arts du dessin” in 1867 and by Gottfried Semper in “Der Stil” between 1860 and 1862.

He repeats in a recurring (however not completely actual) means the weather and patterns like strains, colours, motion or topics to create a visible unity.

Hodler, Ferdinand. Strolling on the forest edge. 1885. Oil on canvas.

He believed that it was greater than only a composition precept however really an ethical and philosophical thought. A pure regulation of organizing the world.

We will see an echo to the correspondence concept between the macrocosm and the microcosm which is predicated on a textual content by Platon: “For that comprehends and contains in itself all ideal animals, even as this universe contains us and all other creatures that have been formed to be visible. For since God desired to liken it most nearly to what is fairest of the objects of reason and in all respects perfect, he made it a single visible living being, containing within itself all animals that are by nature akin to it.”

Hodler, Ferdinand. Night time. 1890. Oil on canvas.

The construction of the universe is identical in all its parts, regardless of their scale. From a cosmic to a mobile degree. Every part is inside every part. A metropolis increasing itself through the years seen from the sky unusually seem like lichen rising on a tree.

We then higher perceive this concept of parallelism and why some artists have been so attracted to it.

Hodler, Ferdinand. Peaks within the morning. 1915. Oil on canvas.

Parallelism is a regulation that goes past artwork, it dictate life itself —Carl Albert Loosli

What is extremely lovely about Hodler footage is that they’re lowered to elementary types and an virtually harmonious austerity. The notion of time and area get misplaced and the work attain eternity, his work is timeless as a result of it layers upon an immutable system that may be a reflection of the group of the world itself.


There’s much more to images than meet the attention and I feel that the extra connections we make between it and different artwork varieties the higher. I’ve heard first about parallelism in portray and I naturally attempt to apply it to my work, I’m grateful for my mother and father who launched me at a really younger age to the work of masters by way of the go to of many various museums in Europe. I hope that this piece impressed you to discover different elements of images.

Concerning the writer: Samuel Zeller is a contract photographer based mostly in Geneva, Switzerland, who’s out there for assignments worldwide. The opinions expressed on this article are solely these of the writer. Zeller is an envoy for Fujifilm and the editor of Fujifeed. You’ll find extra of Zeller’s work on his web site and Instagram. This text was additionally revealed right here.

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