The Challenge of finding Balance

Not just in Life, but in photography as well…!

And just as in Life, balance is so very important in photography. It is a key ingredient in one  of the most basic creative decisions that we make as we compose the image –

How much tension or harmony do we want to create?

Because the eye and the brain are always searching for balance, it is a fundamental component to creating the effect that we envision.

The centre of the image is the point of balance and from that point we can create either –

Symmetrical Balance (Formal or Static) when the two sides mirror each other & everything falls equally away from the centre …  or  …

Asymmetrical Balance (Informal or Dynamic) where elements in the frame balance each other by ‘visual weight’, which includes a vast variety of contrasts, colours, textures, shapes, even sizes, and by position in the frame itself.

Static balance creates an image that is very rigid, stable & restful, while Dynamic balance does the opposite, creating more interest and even tension as the eye attempts to create it’s own balance.

After much reading online & studying two of my favourite books: The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman & Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson, I think I have a better sense of exactly how important balance is in an image, but as far as truly understanding all the nuances of balance & using them effectively in a visual manner – I have a long way to go & it will take much longer than a few days to really ‘get it’. I have a sneaky feeling it may take the better part of a lifetime, but then, perhaps that’s just me & more gifted folks will not struggle with it in the same way.

Briefly, here’s what I understand so far:

When an image portrays a subject that is clearly dealing with maintaining an upright balance, the basic theme of the shot is Asymmetrical or Dynamic Balance & it is instantly interesting…. the eye becomes immediately engaged, as the obvious tension in the situation leaves us wondering – will it fall or will it not?

Both of these shots submitted by John at John Roberts Photography are excellent examples of the power of Balance in an image:

  • Boys on street
    This scene was captured on Capitol Hill during a street shoot – probably they were dancing, even though it was a busy street….
  • Family transportation

    This shot was taken in Sri Lanka, where balancing that many riders on a small motorcycle is a common sight.

    Two excellent examples of the element of Balance, creating strong & very interesting images…. thank you so much John, for jumping into my challenge!

Finding images that clearly demonstrate Static or Symmetrical Balance was difficult & I finally gave up looking in the ‘outside’ world & using the world of Photoshop, I created this example of perfect symmetrical balance….

Three flowered avens, doubled
Mirror image .... classic symmetrical balance....

Looking for shots of Asymmetrical Balance was almost as difficult, as my goal was to make imbalance the subject of the shot.

The image below is part of an old rusty piece of metal, I think the eye is expecting to find a balance in the long shapes, but instead finds an extra circle…..creating  a rather uncomfortable sense of imbalance or tension. I think the missing side of the structure on the right also adds to that feeling of uncertainty & lack of stability & balance….

Imbalance
Imbalance

This concept of balance in composition is so important & so fundamental…. to tell you the truth, I was blissfully unaware of its value until I tackled my own challenge!

I would love to share your images here…. if you decide to join the challenge, I think the best way to include your shots will be if you email them to me at:

jbmcphoto@gmail.com

(Image sizes can be anywhere from 150 to 250 kb, longest side no more than 800 px)

Or if you prefer, you can post a reply with a link to your image, if it is in another location on the internet.

And please include your thoughts on your image – the more we share, the more we learn!

Many thanks for your support & participation in my little idea….& I hope you find some of this information helpful….

(I think I’ll change the Challenge a little… instead of adding a new one to the bottom of a post, I’ll write a new post with some info about the current challenge & ask for your input then, seems more logical somehow….)

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Enjoying photography & blogging in my retirement.

3 thoughts on “The Challenge of finding Balance

  1. Very interesting, Janet. I’ve never really given much thought to balance in an image, other than ones that have perfect symmetry. I know I do like shots that are more asymmetric. I wanted to respond to your challenge, but with my sister and her hubby visiting, we’ve been running around so much that I haven’t had time to work on it. Hope to do better with your next challenge.

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