Create Balance In Your Compositions

Outdoor Photography

Whether you primarily make landscape images or lean toward capturing wildlife, it’s important to create balance in your compositions. When an image is too heavily weighted on one side or the other, or on either the top or bottom, it tips the scales to the denser side. Think about a balance scale. If I place 10 grams of material on the left and six grams on the right, the left side will be lower.

Use this analogy for every subsequent image that compels you to press the shutter. Does the photo feel too heavily weighted in one part with nothing to tip the scales on the other side? If the answer is yes, make the photo and use it as a reminder of what not to do. Then make a follow-up image and adjust your composition so the lighter side includes additional components.

In regard to the subjects that get added, be sure they enhance the photo. Don’t include just anything so balance can be achieved. If the top part of the frame contains the primary subject, find subjects in the lower half that complement the top. Make sure they’re not busy, too bright, too dark or not related. In other words, finish the short story with a “powerful ending” that makes sense with the “previous six pages” of your photo. Armed with the above analogies, you’ll no longer get thrown off balance.

The Balance Of Power

To create powerful balance, avoid placing important subjects all on one side. The viewer of the photo will fixate on the heavier side and linger there. The problem with this is the viewer’s eye isn’t  motivated to course through the rest of the image, which makes the dead section unimportant. It becomes wasted picture space and yields a photo that’s not successful.

Checks and Balances

Check the balance before you press the shutter. Key elements should be evenly distributed within the image area. The balance can be asymmetrical as long as the part that’s not as large as the key subject carries its own “weight.” In the image of the acacia at sunset taken in the Serengeti, the tree is the largest subject yet the much smaller sun balances the heavy weight of the acacia. The sun is significantly brighter, which magnetically commands attention. Additionally, because it’s a “sunset,” the viewer gives greater weight to the sun on the left. So, size doesn’t matter as long as there’s something powerful enough to achieve evenly positioned scales.

Balancing Act

Balance can also be achieved when you incorporate 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 parts of the image.

Weigh Something in the Balance

Above, I alluded to two analogies: A balance scale and a strong ending to a short story. Carry these two thoughts with you each time you head into the field. Weigh the balance of key subjects using other primary components that have a direct connection with the subject through the use of light, shadow and color. Think of all the money you will make selling your balanced images. You can now balance your budget!

To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit to get more information.

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