Every photograph has balance or an imbalance that is used in the final composition.
Although balance is probably one of the most important elements of a good composition, it is probably one the most overlooked and least taught method of creating a powerful image. More than likely this is due to balance being very complex, hard to grasp and teach all the while being extremely subjective.
Symmetrical Balance (Formal)
To have a perfectly balanced or symmetrical photograph both sides, either left or right, top or bottom, or both will draw the viewer’s eye equally to the subject.
For more than one subject you could use the example of an old weighing scale or of a playground’s seesaw, keeping it on an even keel. The subject’s weight or power successfully creating balance in the final composition making them the same or equal.
While using this symmetry to create a feeling of stability or balance many different elements can be used. The subjects or elements in your composition may be objects, colors, textures, sizes, shapes, dark and light tonalities, and quantities. All of this is based on their placement or selection of the subjects or elements.
Although not true for all images, portraits are commonly used in a balanced or symmetrical way. When a balanced or symmetrical composition doesn’t work, it can be boring and very weak. The eye isn’t lead anywhere, which is why the rule of thirds works so well and is so popular.
Asymmetrical Balance (Informal)
Instead of mirroring the images or placing them in your composition symmetrically they are placed around the frame forming a balance even though the subjects are different from each other. An example would be a large element and a smaller element weighted to the other side.
With an asymmetrical balance the object or subjects can be of different elements within your composition. Most of the time, they will be utilized with different sized subjects although they don’t have to be.
Look for visual weights such as colors, textures, sizes, shapes, light and dark tones, and quantities. Arrange these different elements in your photograph so that it’s balanced within the frame.
As mentioned earlier although size is very popular when you’re assembling an asymmetrical composition many other elements can be used just as effectively also.
Sometimes the so called rules of balance can be deliberately broken with great success. Using an off balanced subject is used to cause a disproportion and stress within your photograph.
When used correctly and appropriately it makes your composition very interesting and powerful. You the artist must decide which method to employ on your composition.
I hope you enjoyed the first in a series of Composition for Photography.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog entry, stay tuned as next week I'll share another.
Please leave me a comment or two and let me know what you think!