Balance in Composition
Balance, one of the most overlooked components of good photography, also happens to be one of the most important. Whether we realize it or not, when we take a photo we are making a decision each time: will the composition be balanced or imbalanced? To improve the strength of your images, actively consider the following components as you take your pictures.
1. Balance vs. Imbalance
Often, the feeling that the viewer gets when he or she looks at your photo depends on its composition’s balance or imbalance. In a balanced image, the frame is calmer, so the viewers eye is not necessarily drawn to one side of the image over another. Take a look first at the photo of jars below, and then consider the next photo which features a flower floating in water.
The subjects in the first image are placed such that one side of the image does not demand more attention over another. The second image draws the eye towards the right side because that’s where the flower is floating, which makes it look as though something in the frame is about to change. When it comes to balanced and imbalanced compositions, one is not better than the other. The choice that you make all depends on the effect that you want to have on the viewer.
2. Left-Right Balance
When an image is perfectly balanced, the left and right halves of the photo draw the eye equally. When it comes to balance, top-bottom balance has little effect on how evenly-weighted a photo appears. Consider the symmetry of a person’s face. We consider it symmetrical in terms of the left-right axis. Therefore, when an image’s subjects are along the bottom, it can still be considered balanced.
Pixel perfect level symmetry is not possible outside of computer generated images, but a nearly symmetrical photo is more than enough for the eye to recognize a balanced composition. Consider the image below:
There is shade on the left side of the canoe and sun on the right, but most viewers would consider this scene symmetrical. The subject is in the center of the photo and each side has essentially the same visual weight as the other.
In order to be balanced, an image doesn’t need to be perfectly symmetrical. When the eye is drawn to both sides of the photo, the image is balanced.
The canoes appear on the left side of this image, and they are most likely the first component that attracts the viewers’ eyes. However, the blue reflection of the sky in the lake and the dock are also attention grabbing. Because they appear on the right side of the image, the image is balanced. The eye might be pulled more towards the left side of the image initially, but the photo still effectively balances itself once eye wanders towards the right.