Elements of Art and Principles of Design for Weddings

Before the wedding industry took hold of every corner of my heart and life over five years ago, I was a private school art teacher (the one with the English degree and a whole ton of art college credits since high school as my vocation was supposed to be in Art Education! Hello, life changing courses times a million!). So the art world is still very close to my heart, and it's hard for me to separate the two. As photographers, editors, and couples alike, we know the feeling when something "feels" good in a wedding photo, and sometimes we aren't quite sure why. We just know. Well, my friends, that feeling has two names, and they are called the Elements of Art and Principles of Design!

When you train your eye to spot these different elements and principles in photographs, your brain will start to automatically acknowledge the difference between a strong photo and a weak one. When you can call out a specific element that dominates the photo (like texture, balance, et cetera), you are starting to see the puzzle pieces that make up and contribute to a true work of art.

The great thing about art and photography in general is that each work is comprised of several different elements and principles. There isn't just one. Think of it like a recipe! To make a delicious dish, you need several ingredients. Those individual ingredients then work together to create something fabulous as a whole-- different flavors to create one unified edible delight. And for weddings, that's key to many memories and inspiration!

So get ready to hear what's up behind that gorgeous photo you pinned on Pinterest!


Line - n. a mark created by moving a point along in one direction.

Space - n. the area around between and around objects.

Texture - n. the look and feel of a surface.

Shape - n. an object represented in two dimensions.

Form - n. a three-dimensional object having volume and thickness.

Value - n. the degree between light and dark in a design.

Color - n. the element of art that is derived from reflected light.


Movement - n. an illusion created by the artist to convey action in a piece of stationary art.

Unity/Harmony - n. the quality of wholeness achieved by such manipulation of the elements of art to achieve simplicity and repetition.

Variety - n. the use of several elements of design to hold the viewer’s attention and to guide the viewer’s eye through the artwork.

Balance - n. an equal arrangement of specific elements within a composition deliberately organized by the artist.

Emphasis - n. the principle of design that appears to be the dominant, or the most noticeable quality in a work of art.

Contrast - n. the visual created by using opposites near or beside one another, such as light next to dark or a rough texture next to a smooth texture.

Proportion - n. the feeling of unity created when all parts (sizes, amounts, or number) relate well with each other.

Pattern - n. a principle of design that refers to the visual movement created by repeating specific elements of art.

All photos by Bit of Ivory Photography.