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Add more drama to your digital images with careful image balance

Added on Monday 28th of February 2011 02:28 am EST



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Sometimes, although a photo is a decent representation of a subject, it lacks drama. One of the chief reasons for this is an unbalanced image. With this discussion of image composition, we’ll show you how you can create compelling images by properly balancing your subject.


To demonstrate how to balance the image composition in your photographs, we’ll:

     Discuss the concept of subject balance for taking better photos.

     Show you how to balance your photos using a few image examples.

     Explain how to salvage an unbalanced image with cropping.



To some photographers, a balanced shot, such as the one shown in Figure A, comes naturally. To most others, the sensitivity needed to create a balanced photograph takes time to develop. However, regardless of your skill level, understanding the simple concepts of balance can immediately help improve the quality of the images you take with your digital camera.




Balance and image composition, which is referred to as simply balance in photography, is the relationship between your main subject and the other elements in the image. These elements can consist of background, props, surroundings, or any other subject matter. A majority of images employ one central subject. How that subject sits in the given space and interacts with other objects in the scene creates balance. The human mind seeks out balance, so an image with a sense of equilibrium draws and maintains our ever-shifting attention. By using balance, a good photographer delivers a clear message in a visually stimulating way.


Digital technology and balance

Digital cameras offer several features that encourage the creation of balanced shots:

        The LCD screen allows the photographer to frame a shot precisely without having to wait for the film to process.

        The shot preview gives instant feedback on whether you accomplished your photographic goal.

        The near infinite number of shots you can take (depending upon memory), without worrying about film or processing costs gives you the opportunity to try many different arrangements and compositions.


Types of balance

While there are many terms used to describe balance in image composition, there are two main concepts to consider:

        Do you want every object to be balanced with one another?

        Or, do you want to offset images to create a dynamic look?


These are the questions you need to ask yourself before taking your shot. To help you come up with the answers, let’s get to know the two types of photographic balance.


Symmetrical balance

Many subjects offer a symmetrical composition. Balance is achieved through symmetry, as shown in Figure B. This type of balance is often referred to as formal balance, as each side of the photograph has equal weight and similar colors and contrast. Symmetrical balance should be used for images that lend themselves to a more structured composition, such as group shots or documentary photography.




Asymmetrical balance

While symmetrical balance certainly creates a complementary arrangement of subjects, some photographers believe it separates the image in two or more parts, and in effect divides the viewer’s attention. Asymmetrical balance, or informal balance, offsets different objects in...


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