Finding Compositional Balance

My doctor tells me to eat a balanced diet.
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My doctor tells me to eat a balanced diet. I do this to stay healthy—which is a good thing. When my checkbook is in balance, this is a great thing. Tightrope walkers depend on balance to make a living and stay alive—a very necessary thing. I encourage you to achieve compositional balance each time you compose a photo—a fabulous thing!

Balance in composition is important to make the image successful. If a photo is weighted too heavily on the top, bottom, left, or right, the viewer's eye fixates on that area and has difficulty going to other sections. The problem with this is, where the viewer's eye is not attracted, is still part of the image, but it lacks importance. This becomes wasted picture space and results in a faulty composition.

To achieve balance, key elements or focal points should be distributed within the image. The balance may show symmetry from top to bottom or left to tight. This makes for a more tranquil composition. If the balance is asymmetrical, one section of the image will appear heavier. The offsetting element in a different area of the image should be strong enough to draw the viewer to it. These images typically show more movement. Balance can be achieved using offsetting strong points of color, contrasting areas of light and shadow, size relationships, or other methods of including parts of the composition to draw the viewer to all sections of the image.

The best way explain what balance means is to illustrate it in pictures. In the images that accompany this week's tip, all demonstrate the concept. In the photograph of the mountain goat, the balance works because of the direction in which he's looking. The goat on the left is balanced by the large diagonal rock on the right. Subject-wise, the rock doesn't carry as much importance as the goat but the composition is balanced by its inclusion. Had the rock not been there, the photo would be too heavily weighted on side where the goat resides.

The preening pelican photo demonstrates symmetrical balance because of the reflection. Reflective surfaces make it easier to achieve compositional balance by simply including the entire reflection of the actual subject. Be sure to crop tightly, but not to the point where you either cut off part of the reflection, or don't provide enough "breathing room" for any one part of the subject or reflection. The coastal sunset demonstrates balance a few ways. The dark rocks on the right and left sides carry equal weight based on their respective sizes. The foreground and background balance each other based on subject dominance and exposure. The setting sun and large sea stack at the top third of the frame command a lot of attention. This dominance is balanced by the foreground rock, wave action, and inclusion of the bright sun area reflecting off the water in the lower right. It's these little nuances above that make a huge difference in the success of the photo. So, from now on, rather than go and simply "take" pictures, go out and "make" great compositions.



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