The Principle of Unity In Photography

In our quest for great images, we search for new ways to constantly improve our photographic skills.

Photography is all about communicating ideas, so along with those compositional elements, learning to tell or imply a great story is very important. Let’s look at unity in photography

Intentional camera movement showing the principle of unity in Photography using warm colors in and image of person walking their dogs on the beach by Eva Polak.

Knowing the principles of composition gives you a certain expressive freedom. The rules help you to make a conscious decision about your images. They give you the freedom to express yourself in an effective way. The principles of visual design form the recipe for a good photograph.

When you understand them, you have power over them. You have the power to make them do what you want to convey in your images.

Image of red berries on branches using the principle of unity of similar shapes by Eva Polak.

Unity In Photography Using Similar Shapes

You might have noticed, when looking at photographs, that the real visual excitement comes when an image has harmonic unity, giving you a satisfying sense of belonging and a relationship between all elements. This happens when the principle of unity is used to create a photograph.

The idea behind the principle of unity is to create an image where all elements support each other and all work together toward a common goal – to express your intended message. Through unity, the elements of your image are not competing with each other for attention. They are working together to reinforce your message.

It is useful to know that unity adds order to an image. However, too much unity can be dull and lifeless. On the other hand, variety adds interest and energy to an image, but the addition of too much variety makes your image chaotic and difficult to understand. So, you should always look for a balance between unity and variety.

Monochromatic image of dew drops on a dandelion showing unity by use of color and shape by Eva Polak.

Unity by the Use of Color and Shape

To create unity in your images you should have a clear idea of what kind of story you are trying to communicate. To start with, first ask yourself why you want to photograph this or that particular subject, and what you want to express in your image.

Don’t try to say too much. Simplicity is the key here. When you have a clear idea for your subject, you will know how to compose an image, what elements of the scene to include, and what kind of lens and technique to use.

Become fluent in the visual language of elements of design. Understanding the power of color, lines, shapes, and light will help you create images that communicate clear ideas. Next time you are on a photo adventure, keep all design principles in the back of your mind. Look for images that are rhythmic, balanced, harmonic, and have a visual flow – creating that unity in photography.

Abstract image of window using the principle of unity by the use of pattern and color by Eva Polak.

Unity by the Use of Pattern and Color

Imagine yourself as a composer, creating a symphony of light, color and form. Unity is created by the repetition of similar shapes, lines, patterns, and colors. For example, you may use the harmonious limited color palette, or similar shapes to unify your image.

As you will see, unity can be planned and controlled through your composition. Remember that each selected element (line, color, texture…) has a meaning and impacts the total image. With unity, no one thing stands alone or demands visual attention.

When you are exploring the principle of unity, create a lot of images. The more you create, the more you will discover what works and what doesn’t. With practice, you will understand when to use it. Learn from the experience. Your next great image might be just a shutter click away.

Abstract image of lights and water using the principle of unity by use of repetition by Eva Polak.

Unity by the Use of Repetition


Tips to remember:

  1. Always try to tell a story with each image that you make.
  2. Choose the focal point carefully to communicate your idea clearly.
  3. The ‘rules’ are not rigid in the use of unity. There are countless ways to achieve it – all that is required is experimentation.
  4. Exclude everything that is unnecessary.
  5. For a more exciting look, use the power of lines.
  6. Use the power of color and light to create images filled with mood and emotions.
  7. Make sure you know how to get the most out of the technique you are using.
  8. Don’t be a slave to rules and principles. Use your intuition; you might surprise yourself.
  9. Above all, have fun!

Unity In Photography By Eva Polak
Article and photos: © 2016 Eva Polak. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.