Elements of Balance – How many can you find?

This little blog seems to be taking on a life of it’s own… which is wonderful!

Thank you so much for all your encouragement and support.

My original idea was to introduce & discuss a different aspect of composition on a weekly basis. If you have been here more than once, you’ll have noticed that this is definitely not unfolding as planned!

Most obvious is the lack of the Weekly Post… clearly I am not paying attention to my own busy life and I really should have known that a weekly update would never happen, especially during the summer months. In spite of my retirement, it seems that I have too many interests, too many comittments and not enough time…. exactly the same as when I was working…!! Should be no surprise, but remarkably….. it is!

The other noteworthy change is that my original intent was to introduce a new discussion with every post and instead – we are exploring the elements of composition in depth – thanks to the wonderful folks who are contributing to my Challenges and sharing from their own wealth of knowledge and experience.

Two excellent photographers have been kind enough to contribute their thoughts and images to the discussion on the Elements of Balance…..

Dan & Patti Ledbetter ofย  Bay Island Photography sent this image which demonstrates in a clear and powerful manner, how the element of Balance can have a dramatic impact on the image & the story it tells.

In Dan’s own words:

What drew me to take this shot of the pier were the strong symmetrical elements that I noticed only when I happened to walk beneath it. From that point of view, the repetitive symmetry seemed really interesting. And the strong vertical and horizontal converging lines of the pier seemed very interesting as well.

The light was right, so I lined everything up and took the shot. With all these symmetrical elements in play, the final composition that seemed to best balance and present the shot was a slight crop for dead center symmetry.

As with most landscape shots that come out well, I think it has a lot to do with being in the right place at the right time โ€ฆ.and taking notice of it. And it once again proves my theory that taking a relaxing walk on the beach is NEVER a waste of time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Pier Pressure
Pier Pressure

Excellent shot and wonderful work! Thanks so much for contributing, Dan!

Your image is a very powerful example of the predominant element of Symmetrical Balance. From the centre point, both sides are mirror images of each other except for the bold shadow which adds interest and depth. The strong lines & patterns draw the eye deep into the image, directly down the centre….ย  a wonderful example of the strength & impact of using several strong elements of composition to create a very compelling image.

Our second contributor is Judy Horton of Photo Effects Photography.

Judy has put together an exceptionally well researched article, discussing some of the many nuances of Balance. She has provided us with some excellent information to remember & consider when we are composing our images. This is the knowledge that will improve your photography and can make the difference between a hum-drum shot & an Oh Wow! shot.

Janet’s blog discussion on balance started me thinking about balance in photography and I realized that I had not given it much thought. I was aware of formal balance where there is strong symmetry within an image, but I realized that other images must also have balance, as well. The following image is a fairly traditional example of formal balance:

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Architecture/Architecture/6687364_RLjGR#736326088_cZwPB

While the image below is not strictly symmetrical, I believe it exhibits formal balance fairly well, since the different trees on the right and left tend to balance one another.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Architecture/Architecture/6687364_RLjGR#426435628_gbfH7

I did a bit of reading about balance in photography and learned some things that validated some of my intuitive feelings about various types of images. I’ve tended to prefer images that are not symmetric but had not realized that they, too, may be balanced. Informal balance is the balancing on opposite sides of a given point by one or more elements that are dissimilar or contrasting. One type of informal balance in a image may be light against dark or dark against light. I believe this photo of my granddaughter illustrates this principle. A smaller area of black can balance a larger area of white, while using gray instead of black would require a somewhat larger area of that color.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Portraits/Duncan-and-Quinn-Photoshoot/14729169_CXeMq#1097529874_gRk25

Similarly, the following image illustrates in color this same type of balance of black against a lighter color.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/popular/791754719_zkTt5#791754719_zkTt5

Another type of balance in composition is through the use of color: vibrant colors and tones against more neutral colors and tones. Especially strong colors may require a larger area of the neutral colors to achieve balance. I believe this principle is illustrated by this shot taken at a hot air balloon festival. The very vibrant colors of the balloon are balanced in the image by the other more neutral colors.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/popular/#670671986_UoW5V

Another example of this can be seen in this shot, where the vibrant red of the shirts is balanced by the more neutral colors in the rest of the image.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/popular/#584346064_hPjmc

A different type of balance in an image can be large against small. I had a lot of trouble coming up with a good example for this one. Perhaps, some others of you can come up with better examples than this one, in which the small insect balances the large flower. Obviously, in this shot other types of balance are also illustrated, such as vibrant color against neutral, and even, light against dark.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Other/Macros/6593162_YVoap#1054411761_hHm3x

Perhaps, the following image is a better example of these balance elements:

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Holidays/Fireworks/8828457_shHg3#1368614957_7KDrdqB

Shape is also involved in balance. The eye is led to more intricate shapes. In the following image, I think it can be argued that there are three shapes in the image: the shape of the cement walk, the shape of the water and the more intricate shape of the goose. In this case the eye is drawn to the intricate shape, while the simpler two shapes provide the opposing balance.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Flowers/Flora-and-Fauna/6473184_C7VJs#1269796838_7xkG6hF

In this next image, the intricate round shapes are counterbalanced by the larger shapes indicated by the large areas of dark green, light green and sort of brownish. Although the various shaped areas are somewhat amorphous, I think the principle is, nonetheless, demonstrated.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Flowers/Flora-and-Fauna/6473184_C7VJs#957806993_8inLv

In another example where shape clearly plays a role in providing balance, the cylindrically shaped section of the building plus its roof constitutes the dominant shape and is counterbalanced by the slightly less intricate shapes of the white area with rectangular windows and the shape of the blue sky. However, I don’t think we can say that shape is the only balancing element in this image. Clearly, color plays a role, as well.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Architecture/Architecture/6687364_RLjGR#994399963_DNj2N

Finally, balance can also be achieved by playing texture against smooth. In the following image, the large area of the highly textured purse is balanced by the smooth background areas.

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Other/Glass/15374383_EZd3D#1150546429_Zc8zw

In conclusion, I’d like to challenge you to analyze the following images with regard to balance. As I’ve looked through my galleries on smugmug to find images to illustrate the points in this discussion, I’ve realized that many images employ several types of balance elements. And the elements discussed here are probably not the only ones that affect balance. What are the elements of balance in each of the following images?

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Other/Reflections/7022529_y4ug5#683628381_HdKaU

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Other/Reflections/7022529_y4ug5#1112876642_dscay

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Other/Reflections/7022529_y4ug5#685459694_oAnmp

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Animals/Birds/6654951_zLP82#1386318263_WG4Mchd

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Animals/Birds/6654951_zLP82#1318087936_pbGGMWk

http://fotoeffects.smugmug.com/Other/Glass/15374383_EZd3D#1150581934_Uzsmd

I want to thank Janet for inspiring me to undertake this little project. I’m sure I’ll never look at composition quite the same way again.

Thank you so much for this, Judy…. I agree! I’m sure I will never look at composition quite the same again either… excellent, thought provoking information, so beautifully presented!

I hope you will join our discussion, particpate in Judy’s Challenge and see how many Elements of Balance you can see in her images and in your own, I bet you will be surprised by how many you can identify!

If you find some interesting elements of balance in your own work and would like to share with others & perhaps get their feedback, please leave a comment or send me an email at …. jbmcphoto@gmail.com …

I’d love to see your shots and share your thoughts on Balance… ๐Ÿ™‚

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Enjoying photography & blogging in my retirement.

6 thoughts on “Elements of Balance – How many can you find?

  1. Between yours and Judy’s writing, this is really a complete lesson on the concept of balance in photography – and it’s a far broader topic than I’d ever imagined. Thanks for sharing and giving me much more to think about when composing a shot.

  2. Thanks so much for your comments… Jeremy, Art & Maryann…. much appreciated….:-))

    I’m going to accept Judy’s Challenge & attempt to very briefly analyze her images & try to find the elements of Balance in each of them, and I have to say, you really got me thinking here, Judy… !!

    1) Blue high rise building – very strong formal, symmetrical balance, and light on the lower half balanced by dark areas on the upper half.
    2) High rise building & reflections – vibrant blues balanced by muted, softer browns and the intricate shapes of the reflection balanced by the simple, dominant shapes of the squares.
    3) Blues & golds – big & small round shapes balance each other throughout the image, very dark shapes balance the larger area of bright, lighter colour.
    4) Woodpecker & tree – lots of variety in balance here – very similar shapes of the bird & the tree form a symmetrical balance, also smooth & rough textures, areas of dark tones, balanced by larger light tones & the 2 branches even form a balance of large & small.
    5) Red winged blackbird – small area of bright reds balanced by larger area of black, & I think the round areas of the red are balanced by the rounded black head of the bird in the centre of the image.
    6) Glasses – small strong black lines balanced by larger neutral areas, the intricate features on the glasses are balanced by the simpler dark lines, the curving shapes provide balance with each other.

    Probably I missed a few…. & I might see more the next time I look, but that’s my best for now!

  3. Very interesting read and a lot to think about. I think that I understand what you and the others write and illustrate but I don’t think I’m at the point where I can incorporate balance into my actual shooting efforts. I think that I just rely on 50 years of reading and shooting to decide what looks good. Later, when I’m looking at the photos I may think about balance. But probably not even then. On one of my recent posts (http://arthill.smugmug.com/Photography/Daily-Photos-2011/15281238_Twnec#1412411954_dsKMq6r-A-LB) Judy commented about the balance. But I hadn’t even picked up on it.

  4. Thanks for sharing these great tips (and great photos)! I will certainly take a closer look at how I use balance in my compositions.

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