Better Photography Starts with Composition (Part 3 of 3)

HI! I hope you’ve had a chance to practice from Part 1: Rule of Thirds & FMB and Part 2: Shapes & Negative Space. The last part of the Composition series will focus on Visual Weight & Balance.

Visual Weight & Balance

Visual Weight & Balance in a photo works much like the physical world. A balanced photo gives a feeling of feeling of stability through position, size, amount, color, texture, and brightness. This is a great tool to attract your the viewer’s eye to a certain location. Now I know there's a ton of factors that go into this category, but don't feel overwhelmed! This will all become second nature the more you shoot. In the mean time, I'll do my best to describe Visual Weight & Balance with simple illustrations and examples below:

1) Position

If objects have the same size, spacing them equally creates a balanced photo:

 Unbalanced - 2 baseballs not equally spaced

Unbalanced - 2 baseballs not equally spaced

 Balanced - 2 baseballs equally spaced

Balanced - 2 baseballs equally spaced

 The two Cuban children of the same size, equally spaced, creates a balanced photo. The two were shy at first, but once I started chatting with them and cracking some jokes, they quickly turned into little models.

The two Cuban children of the same size, equally spaced, creates a balanced photo. The two were shy at first, but once I started chatting with them and cracking some jokes, they quickly turned into little models.

2) Size & Quantity

Larger objects have more weight than smaller objects:

 Unbalanced - 1 basketball & 1 baseball equally spaced

Unbalanced - 1 basketball & 1 baseball equally spaced

 Balanced - 1 basketball & 1 baseball not equally spaced

Balanced - 1 basketball & 1 baseball not equally spaced

 Balanced - 1 basketball & multiple baseballs equally spaced

Balanced - 1 basketball & multiple baseballs equally spaced

 The larger Indian bike-taxi guy in the foreground is the focus, but he is balanced by the groups of people in the background. Thank goodness for him because India in the summer is HOT. 

The larger Indian bike-taxi guy in the foreground is the focus, but he is balanced by the groups of people in the background. Thank goodness for him because India in the summer is HOT. 

3) Color

Brighter colors carry more weight than neutrals:

 Unbalanced - 1 red ball & 1 white ball of the same size equally spaced

Unbalanced - 1 red ball & 1 white ball of the same size equally spaced

 Balanced - 1 small red ball & 1 large white ball equally spaced

Balanced - 1 small red ball & 1 large white ball equally spaced

 The larger Cuban bike-taxi guy in the foreground is the focus, but he is balanced by the smaller man in red in the background. He stopped me on the street saying that he knew me. I said he has to be mistaking me with someone else. It turns out we were eating at the same street food vendor the night before! If you're ever in Cuba, get a bowl of Picadillo; so good.

The larger Cuban bike-taxi guy in the foreground is the focus, but he is balanced by the smaller man in red in the background. He stopped me on the street saying that he knew me. I said he has to be mistaking me with someone else. It turns out we were eating at the same street food vendor the night before! If you're ever in Cuba, get a bowl of Picadillo; so good.

4) Texture

Textured objects have more weight than non-textured objects:

 Unbalanced - 1 baseball & 1 ball of the same size equally spaced

Unbalanced - 1 baseball & 1 ball of the same size equally spaced

 Balanced - 1 baseball & multiple balls of the same size 

Balanced - 1 baseball & multiple balls of the same size 

 Devil’s Tower is the focus because of color and texture, but it’s balanced by the sky. The colors changed from a light gray during the day to an almost blood red during sunset. There's still debate on how this thing actually formed. You can read more about it  here , but I think  Spielberg  was on to something... 

Devil’s Tower is the focus because of color and texture, but it’s balanced by the sky. The colors changed from a light gray during the day to an almost blood red during sunset. There's still debate on how this thing actually formed. You can read more about it here, but I think Spielberg was on to something... 

5) Brightness

Darker objects carry more weight than lighter objects:

 Unbalanced - Same size Dark circle & white circle equally spaced

Unbalanced - Same size Dark circle & white circle equally spaced

 Balanced - Larger white circle and smaller dark circle equally spaced

Balanced - Larger white circle and smaller dark circle equally spaced

 The darker shoreline of Nice, France on in the foreground is balanced by the lighter ocean and sky. Not much of a story here, I just love the ocean!

The darker shoreline of Nice, France on in the foreground is balanced by the lighter ocean and sky. Not much of a story here, I just love the ocean!

Once you can recognize and capture a balanced photo, you can use an unbalanced composition to really emphasize something. While it’s a bit trickier to do, it’s the beauty of photography and art in general. When you have a good grasp of the foundation, you can bend the rules to express something unique to you.

Thank you so much for reading! In 2 weeks, I’ll be starting a series on something that’s just as critical to composition: Lighting. Be sure to subscribe to receive updates and follow @HappyPandaTravels on Instagram for inspirations!

Panda Travel Signature.jpg