Photograph above by Dynamic Symmetry Art Member Warren Wish
A Photographer's Dilemma
I received an email the other day that I felt was worth addressing in an article. The person who wrote asked me, "How can I capture an image based on Dynamic Symmetry composition rules and how can I enhance the power to acquire the knowledge of this system?" Even though I address both of these issues thoroughly in my user's guide, The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist, the question is an important one and deserves further clarification.
Like the person who sent me the email above, many photographers are confused how to apply Dynamic Symmetry to their photographs because they don't have the ability to overlay grids while they are taking pictures. While this restriction might seem daunting at first, there are ways to get around this obstacle. Here's how.
Start by learning how to analyze art. And when I say art, I don't mean limit yourself to just photographs - look at drawings and paintings as well. You can learn a great deal by studying a master painter's body of work. Once you have fully grasped the elements of design (figure-ground relationship, overlapping, the greatest area of contrast, perspective, the armature of the rectangle, etc.), you can then learn how to apply these techniques while you're shooting on the fly. In other words, while taking pictures, you're looking for certain qualities that make a photograph a work of art and responding to them quickly. Martine Franck talks about this in her essays on the art of photography.
By taking the time to analyze art, your learning how to become visually literate. While on the surface the term visual literacy might come across as threatening or insulting, it really isn't. Every highly trained artist throughout history, from da Vinci to Degas, all went through the process of analyzing art. In fact, it was standard practice for an artist to copy another master's work. While today this approach is frowned upon by most art teachers (because they aren't trained), in the past, it was a way for the student to learn all of the techniques of value, color theory, design and so on.
Every time you've completed a photography shoot, lay design grids over your photographs in post-processing to see how well you did. This is great practice, requires almost no effort, and drastically speeds up the learning process. Henri Cartier-Bresson used to do this by drawing the 1.5 armature of the rectangle on a piece of tracing paper. He would then lay the tracing paper on top of his contact sheets or prints to determine which images worked and which ones failed. Today, this process is much easier because you can use Lightroom and Photoshop to import pre-made design grids. If you're willing to go through this process, your visual skills will improve each time you pick up your camera. Simply put, your learning how to see like an artist.
Improving Your Knowledge on Dynamic Symmetry
Without trying to come across like an advertisement for my site, to address your other question about improving your knowledge of Dynamic Symmetry, my suggestion is to read my user's guide The Art of Composition: A Dynamic Symmetry User's Guide for the Modern Artist. Even though The Art of Composition: A Simple Application of Dynamic Symmetry by Michel Jacobs is a great place to start, there is a vast amount of additional information in my user's guide that will improve your visual literacy skills. I've spent eight years compiling the best information on design to make it easier for the artist and photographer, like you, who wants to learn more about the art of composition but don't know where to start.
I hope this information helps and good luck in your artistic journey for creating better photographs.