Metallic_Pinwheels-4x6ACGood day, everyone! I hope you are all bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready for today’s lesson. As for me, I am running on a few hours’ sleep and strong coffee, so if you see a line of zzz’s show up in today’s photography lesson, it means that have I accidentally fallen asleep at the keyboard. Please feel free to poke me on Twitter to wake me up. Now let us get on with the lesson before I forget what I wanted to teach you.

Today, I want to share my thoughts on the significance of patterns and textures in photography. I love shooting pattern photos because they are so fresh and fascinating. Pattern photos tend to be minimalistic in their design and composition. This simplicity can be fun but challenging due to the tendency for pattern photos to feel austere because of their severe simplicity. The trick with these types of photos is to find a balance between the overall pattern being shot and an “anchoring element” within the photo.

Let’s Get Started

When I talk about the pattern photo, I am not just talking about a photo that has a pattern of some sort in it. Rather I am talking about a photo that is dominated by an overarching pattern. The pattern of this type of photo dominates so much of the image that the pattern itself actually is the photo’s subject. This is different from a texture photo which simply features a pattern within its composition that adds interest to the overall photo’s subject rather than becoming its subject. The main difference between a Pattern-Based Photograph and a Photograph with Texture is the use of an anchoring subject element in the photo. An anchoring element acts like the subject within the subject and is used to help “ground” Pattern-Based Photos.

Let’s Break It Down

To understand a pattern photo and its anchoring point, let’s look at the example “Metallic Pinwheels”. “Metallic Pinwheels” actually showcases the pattern on the side of Disney’s Epcot sphere when lit at night. For this photo, I wanted to focus just on the pattern itself instead of on the sphere as a whole. To do this, I zoomed in so that only the pattern was featured instead of the building as a whole and used the two brightest lit triangles as the pattern’s anchor element. Because these two triangles stand out a little more than others in the pattern, they give the viewer’s eye a specific place to focus his or her vision, thus grounding his or her attention in the image.

Pattern-Based Photos

Pattern-Based Photos have a main subject that is part of the dominant pattern of the photo and acts as the viewer’s eyes “anchoring point” such as:

The brightest lit triangles in “Metallic Pinwheels”

The smallest diamond shape in “Industrial Diamonds”

The largest square in “Mauve Blocks”

Photos With Texture

Photos with texture usually have a main subject that is something other than the pattern itself like:

The leaf in “Iron Ripples”

The spider in “Spider Spots”

The sun in “Sun Dabbled Dune”

Photographer’s Note

When shooting Pattern-Based Photos it is important to remember that a pattern’s anchor point subject will always be something within the pattern that is slightly different than the other parts of the pattern. Most often this variation shows up as a difference in color, size, shape, or placement. Notice that my anchor point subjects almost always line up in some way with at least one of the photograph’s axis discussed in the Rule of Thirds lesson. Try to do this with your own work.


Because Pattern-Based Photos and their textured cousins can be difficult to find, I am only asking you to find 4 of each photo type for this assignment. The easiest place to find these 8 total photos will be in the middle of the city, where man-made patterns crop up often as part of buildings’ structures and facades. If you prefer to look for your photos in the great outdoors rather than in suburbia, try areas with lots of windswept sand dunes. The key to success will depend on how uniform the patterns and textures are that you discover. Good luck and have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia