Composition: A Note on Balance


Part of creating a well composed image is creating balance.  Your image cannot be busy on one side and empty on the other.  This is not to be confused with a symmetrical image. Consider a scale with two arms.  On one arm is a 100g figure.  In order to balance the scale, you do not need an identical figure facing the same direction.  Photos are the same way. In fact, it’s better if you don’t have identical items balancing each other as these will lead to a boring image.

Talking HeadsIf you have  a car in the foreground on the right, you do not need an identical car facing the same direction in the background on the left. You can avoid this if the two subjects are different enough. Consider these two statues. They’re almost identical, but have different expressions. This isn’t an ideal image, but it still works.
Likewise, if you have  a car in the foreground on the right, you do not need an identical car facing the same direction in the background on the left.

Boring DoorThis image is a good example of an unbalanced image.  All of the subject matter is on the right hand side There is nothing at all to balance out the door.  Even an interesting shadow or distinguishing mark on the wall could improve this image.

FountainOn the other hand, this is a classic, albeit boring, example of balance.  The fountain on the left balances the statue on the right.  It’s a good place to start, but hopefully you can come up with a more interesting shot.

SushiThe balance in this image is far more interesting.  The subject is the plate of sushi.  A faceless chef is in the background and is balanced by the blurred food in the right side of the foreground.  The plate in the left foreground helps to balance the wood in the right background.

Smoke SignalsHere’s one more example of a balanced image. Notice that the children in the foreground are balanced by the fireworks in the background. If either were missing, this image would seem incomplete. Fireworks and mud don’t make for an interesting photo. Neither do four people looking away from the camera. Luckily, the two elements work well together. The key to balance is ensuring that your viewer doesn’t find any boring areas within your photo.

A balanced image will always play better than an unbalanced image.  Try to keep this in mind when taking photos and when choosing which photos to display.


About Author

Brent recently left the United States Navy and is working as a software engineer in New England. His photography is on display in small galleries around Massachusetts and online at Brent Mills Photography. He also shoots portraits and weddings across New England on a semi-professional basis.

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