Using Repetition, Pattern, and Rhythm – a short tutorial

LA Warehouse


a series of short tutorials on different compositional techniques you can use to make images with stronger impact

Artists and designers use repetition, pattern, and rhythm to unify an image, reinforce a concept, and create a sense of movement.

RepetitionUsing a single, mostly identical, element repeatedly; often regularly organized but it can also be randomly placed.

Repetition Regular

Repetition Random

Pattern: Repeated groupings of elements bringing out two layers of design: the individual elements and the pattern as a whole.


Rhythm: Using repetition and pattern in an ad-hoc way, creating movement and unifying the image through visual design elements.


Recipes for Repetition

  • A small number (2-5) of largish objects
  • Clearly identifiable as the same thing
  • Arranged a regular or random pattern
  • Look for echoes and progression to add visual interest


Misty Morning


Recipes for Pattern

  • Find a pattern: natural or man-made
  • Frame the composition to highlight the pattern
    often filling the frame
  • Find one thing to disrupt and create interest


Downtown LA

Recipes for Rhythm

  • Look for abstract repeating elements
  • Echoed lines or shapes
  • Random repetitions

Sea Stripes

County Mayo, Ireland

Avoid: Copying Other Peoples Art (OPA)

Do not simply photograph an existing artistic expression that uses Repetition, Pattern, or Rhythm as a compositional element of the original art.

You must add your own creative element to the frame.

Artists use repetition, pattern, and rhythm as components of their own artwork in public murals and sculptures. We must be careful in photography not to simply photography other people’s art in order to find our compositions. Here are some examples where I have used Other People’s Art (OPA) but have added my own creative element.

Movement is the creative element added to this art installation I found at the Bergamot Station cafeteria. It was shot with an early cell-phone camera with a very slow shutter speed. I blew on the wall to make these colorful tags dance as I took the image.


This architectural pattern was found in a church in Portugal. In the late afternoon, as the sun shines through the stained glass windows, brightly colored patterns are projected onto the walls of the church. I used the color and also included the modern-day plug in my composition to make this my own expression.

Is Architectural Photography photographing Other People’s Art (OPA)?

Architecture is a well defined photographic genre where the photographers goal is to capture the beauty and intent of the architect and to find the subtle and poetic points of view that the architect left for the viewer.

Wedding Cake