Learn how balance in photography can improve your images dramatically. But more importantly, learn how to see balance with things that you would think balanced.
Balance in Photography
Balance in photography is an often overlooked, yet a vital part of a beautiful image. Understanding how to balance the subject within a scene is an important step in learning about composition.
Great photography generally incorporates many elements of composition, and balance is definitely one of them. Combined with other compositional rules of photography like the rule of thirds, leading lines, and framing, balance can help you achieve even more visually appealing imagery.
There are two types of balance in photography, symmetrical and asymmetrical balance. Both are important and learning them will help you create beautiful images.
Symmetrical balance, or symmetry, is the easiest way to achieve balance in an image. It is where visually, you can cut an image down the middle and it will be the same on both sides.
The images below are good examples of symmetrical balance. Even though the images are not identical on either side, they feel balanced.
In this image, the White House is in the center. It remains visually interesting because of the symmetry. Something less noticeable, is that the horizon line falls on the bottom rule of thirds. This also helps to give this image balance.
So keep in mind, centering your subject works when there is symmetrical balance in the image.
Not every image is going to look good symmetrically balanced, so it’s important to also learn and understand asymmetrical balance. Especially when you follow the rule of thirds, like the image below. You’ll notice that balance is completely lost.
To create balance in this image, we need to create asymmetrical balance by using another object from the scene to balance our subject. The image below gives us that asymmetrical balance. The tree is visually smaller than the girl, but still gives us a sense of balance.
As you work to create beautiful images, work to create balance between your subject and the other objects in the scene.
Look at the image below. In this image, the globe is in the center, and there is no visual balance. This image is uninteresting.
Would the rule of thirds bring interest to this image? The next image is the same image, simply cropped to place the globe on the left rule of thirds line. Is it more interesting? Maybe a little. It’s less distracting, my eye no longer moves to that dark left corner, but it really isn’t that much more interesting.
Dark Tones Visually Weigh More.
If we crop the image the other direction, we create more balance with the globe. The shadow area creates visual weight that helps balance the globe as we use the rule of thirds.
Back to the drawing of the girl, the visual weight of the road adds balance to the image even better than the tree did. The reason is color. Darker tones add weight visually in an image, and appear heavier than object that are a lighter tone.
This is great news when trying to find balance, you don’t necessarily need to match the size of your subject, you can create that weight to balance the image by using light and shadow.
The image below also have asymmetrical balance. Interestingly enough, the leaves on the right side of the image add more visual weight than the tree trunk does. Both together add the weight needed to balance the sitting man.
In this image, balance is found in the background, through the weight of the dark tones of the mountains while the subject, the rock cairn, is the lighter subject in the foreground.
Our feline image here brings balance by adding the cat-flag.
When using asymmetrical balance in your images, don’t feel like you have to match size for size and weight for weight. Balance can be conveyed even when the objects are very different.
Especially when using the rule of thirds, finding balance in your images is so important. Get out there and practice shooting both symmetrical and asymmetrical balance in your images. As you do, you’ll find your work improving both in look and in feel.