Balance in Composition

Balance in Composition
Balance evokes a sense of stability in the viewer. It avoids the tension the viewer feels when he/she notices that the image is, for example, too heavy on one side.

Visual elements carry visual weight, according to size, color, location or interest. A properly balanced image is one where the visual weights of the different parts of the image are in equilibrium. Visual weights do not have to be of the same kind. For example, a large sized object can be visually balanced by the visual weight of a much smaller object, due to its uniqueness and interest. The viewer may perceive a dynamic balance between visual weights of a different kind for perceptual reasons which are very difficult to put in words.

 

An example of balance in composition, where the visual weight in terms of size of the right hand iceberg is balanced by that of the iceberg on the left. Notice also that the balance is affected by the tonal contrast of the brighter right hand iceberg against the darker, somewhat ominous iceberg on the left.

In this image from beautiful Scoresby Sund in East Greenland, the visual weight in terms of size of the right hand iceberg is balanced by that of the iceberg on the left. Notice also that the balance is affected by the tonal contrast of the brighter right hand iceberg against the darker, somewhat ominous iceberg on the left.

 

A balanced image is not static, and it does not have to be perfectly symmetrical. In fact, balance can lead to some particularly interesting visual dynamics.
Balance in Composition

Balance in composition comes in subtle or apparent ways. The dune may appear unbalanced, with its curving edge leading the eye to the left hand side, and to a point with visual weight due to interest and uniqueness, namely the tree on the lower left flank . However, this is counterbalanced by the tree on the far right hand side, as well as the diagonal interplay of light and shadow on the right hand dune face, which contrasts against the uniformly illuminated face on the left hand side.

At first glance, this image of a beautiful orange dune in Namibia’s Sossusvlei region may appear unbalanced, with the curving edge of the dune leading the eye to the left hand side, as well as to a point with visual weight due to its interest and uniqueness, namely the tree on the lower left flank of the dune. However, this is counterbalanced by the tree on the far right hand side, as well as the diagonal interplay of light and shadow on the right hand dune face, which contrasts against the uniformly illuminated dune face on the left hand side.

Balance in Composition

The concept of balance only makes sense in relation to the frame or boundaries of an image. If there were no boundaries, there would be no need to talk about balance. Besides its crucial role in the concept of balance, the boundaries play the important role of defining the relationships between the image’s different visual components and allow for visual dynamics in the first place. At the same time the boundary can have a detrimental effect on the image, since if any visual elements lead or attract the eye to the boundary, the composition can become unbalanced.

I hope you enjoyed this brief excerpt from my ebook The Art of Nature Photography, which discusses in detail the principles of, and the psychology behind, visual design as applied to photography.

 

Related articles:

Line as a Compositional Element

Shapes in Composition

Composition Tips

The Telephoto for Landscape Photography

Beauty in Simplicity

15 Tips for Stunning Mountain Photography

Wide Angle Compositions

 

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