Balance in Photography: How to Create Harmonious Compositions

The key to a happy life is balance, so they say. And when it comes to effective photography composition, balance is equally essential.

In this blog post, we'll explore the concept of balance in photography and provide some tips and examples for creating harmonious compositions.

What Is Balance in Photography?

If you're searching 'balance photography' and looking for guidance, here's a simple definition. Balance refers to the visual equilibrium within an image. You can achieve this equilibrium by distributing visual elements within the frame in a way that creates a sense of stability and harmony.

There are two types of balance to consider: symmetrical and asymmetrical.

Symmetrical balance is achieved when visual elements are mirrored on either side of the frame. It creates a sense of formal balance and is often used in architectural and landscape photography.

Symmetrical cathedral interior balance
Asymmetrical balance is achieved by distributing visual elements in a way that creates a sense of equilibrium without the neat mirroring that comes with symmetry. This kind of balance is often found in effective portrait and still life photography.

Asymmetrical fashion shot

How to Create Balance in Your Photography

To create balance in your photography, you need to pay attention to the visual weight of the elements within the frame.

The more photographs you study and capture, the more skilled you'll become at identifying this visual weight and distributing it appropriately.

Here are some tips for creating balanced compositions:

  1. Use the rule of thirds
    The rule of thirds is a compositional guideline that divides the frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically. The main subject should be placed along one of the intersecting points to create a sense of balance.

  2. Pay attention to symmetry
    If you are shooting a symmetrical subject, such as a building or a landscape, make sure to center it in the frame to maximise the sense of balance in the image.

  3. Create visual interest with asymmetrical balance
    In asymmetrical balance, visual elements of varying sizes and shapes are placed in a way that creates balance along with a sense of visual interest and tension.

  4. Use leading lines
    By drawing the viewer's eye and creating a sense of visual harmony, leading lines can create a sense of movement and balance within an image.
Creating balance collage

Balance Photography in Action

In many photography classes here at Visual Education, you’ll see expert photographers creating balance in their compositions. For instance, in Shooting Fresh Fish, food photographer Anna Pustynnikova takes great care to position the different fish and shellfish so that she can achieve balance in the final composition (see the fish image in the collage above). In this case, it was particularly important to achieve balance in colour and tone. That’s why the pink fish, crab and squid are distributed evenly across the shot, balanced out by the greys and blacks of the other creatures in the photo.

You can see a similar technique demonstrated in Photographing Candy Using Colour Theory. In this class, Anna and Karl again work hard to compose the shot so that the many different tones, colours, sizes and shapes interact to create an overall sense of balance. For example, the strong pink macaron near the top of the frame balances the strong pink background in its lower half. Creating balance like this prevents bold and busy images like this one from becoming visually overwhelming.

Candy macrons colour balance photography

Balance Photography Examples

To give you some inspiration, here are some examples of balance in photography:

1.  A symmetrical building centered in the frame.

Symmetrical building centered in the frame

© Kamilla Hanapova

2. A portrait with the subject off-center but balanced by other visual elements in the frame.
A balanced portrait
3. A landscape with the horizon placed on one of the horizontal lines of the rule of thirds.
Rule of thirds diagram
4. An asymmetrical still life composition with visual elements of varying sizes and shapes.
Asymmetrical still life
5. A street scene with leading lines that create a sense of movement and balance.
Leading lines to create a sense of movement

Leading Lines: Simple, Effective Photography Composition

Want to create compelling images? One compositional technique you might consider using is the 'leading lines' method.

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Achieving balance in your photographs will enhance their aesthetic beauty as well as their narrative and emotional power. Learning to recognise and find balance in images is a skill that all photographers develop and hone throughout their lives. And the best way to get better at balance is to keep taking photos!

To learn more about balance and composition, download our free 90-page eBook, An Introduction to Photography.

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