Understanding Balance in Photography: Most important but least talked about concepts of compositon.

While learning basics of composition, balance is one of the important building blocks upon which many other rules of composition are build. However novice photographer are seldom aware of this elements of composition. Balance is one of the least-discussed principles of good composition, but it is perhaps the most important. Photographers, consciously or not, make an important decision for every image: should the composition be balanced or imbalanced? To some degree, every photograph in existence has elements of both balance and imbalance, which makes this topic crucial for photographers looking to improve the strength of their images at the most fundamental level.

We say an image is balanced or formal balanced when our eyes are drawn in every side of photo rather than drawn in some particular side. Attention may not be equally in all the direction but it should not be only in particular side. Let us take an example

Girl in a jacket

Unbalanced Image : Viewers attention is mostly towards left side of photograph

Girl in a jacket

Balanced Image : Viewers attention is relatively balanced and not focused on particular corner

Unbalanced and Balanced Image: Image on the left is unbalanced and photo in the right feels balanced. In unbalanced image viewers attention stays on particular side of the image. In the above unbalanced image, viewers attention or focus is mostly drawn by flower and butterfly on the bottom left side of the image while there is almost no object to focus on. This viewer feels off balance, it feels like, image will fall off on the left side if I imaging a image put on a fulcrum in between due to composition weight of beautiful flower and butterfly on the bottom left side. We will cover compositional weights and other associated terms later in this section. 

However when I add few more butterfly in the image and distribute them appropriately, photograph becomes relatively balanced. Butterfly and flower on the left compsitionally balanced by another butterfly on the right side of the image. This is left right balance. Even the middle butterfly which is at slightly higher elevation is adding to sense of balance, but this time it is balancing photograph in vertical direction. It is adding weight to the photograph in the upper part which is balanced by other butterfly and flower in the lower side. Butterfly in the right side are not exactly balancing flower and butterfly on the right. And Balance should not be exact when it is not symmetrical. 

Examples of Unbalanced Images


To sum up, balanced image is an image where viewers attention doesn’t stay only at particular side of image. Most of the time unbalanced image results in failed image. However there are some exceptions too but are rare. This was just an example to sensitize importance of balance in photography. In order to understand completely must have you must know where viewers focus their attention (known as compositional weight), tips to balance your photograph and guidelines. 

5 thoughts on “Understanding Balance in Photography: Most important but least talked about concepts of compositon.”

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