Balance. Such a pleasing word isn’t it. We live our lives in search of it, whether it be a work/life balance, or perhaps a well-balanced diet. Sometimes, we simply strive for balance when standing, depending on how many wobbly pops we’ve that night. Look up balance in the thesaurus and you can instantly see why we yearn for such a thing. Harmony, peace, stability, poise, composure, even steven (yup, it’s in there); these are all things we as humans tend to strive for. When balance is acheived, we tend to be at one with the world, far away from the vaccum-sucking power of chaos.
Okay, I’m back. My point here is that there lies deep within our psyche, a yearning for…balance. We then could assume, that we seek the same controlled outcome within our imagery. One thing that myself and Kelly Funk stress within our Coast in Focus photography workshops, is the importance of a balanced composition. Time to bring in the visuals.
So, what does balance mean within the realm of photographic imaging? It means that the image is evenly weighted within its borders. Take the image of Haslam Lake here. Balance is achieved thanks to some pre-thought elements found within the environment. First of all, the clouds are a bit more vibrant and fluffy on the left side of the image. Offering a sense of counter-weight on the right side are those two rocks protruding from the lake shallows. Zenfullness (couldn’t find this on dictionary.com, but it sounded right) is present within the vertical split of the image (left vs right). Now, to achieve a similar state of higher Zendom within the horizontal split (top vs bottom) I needed a foreground anchor balance. Something that even-stevens the weight of the upper half of the image in the clouds, mountains and blue sky. My solution was to make that rock on the lower left side of the image the anchor.
Voila! The image can now be hung safely on the walls of yoga studios everywhere without disturbing even the shakiest Downward Dog pose.
So what does an imbalanced image look like? When the image doesn’t successfully keep your eyes moving within it, and instead drives your attention to one side vs the other, the image is unstable and may self-destruct without ample warning. Not really, but hopefully you get my point. Imbalanced images tend to create uneasiness in the viewer, if you feel that, chances are balance is missing from the image. The easiest way to achieve imbalance, is with a crooked horizon line. Watch those very closely.
The yellow line was drawn in Photoshop to show how important a straight horizon line is to achieving visual balance. The second image with the crooked horizon line, tends to pull on your chakra, giving the image a heavy left side.
There are times when a crooked horizon line and imbalance offer pleasing results. These are not the norm and are usually the result of trial and error. Wedding and fashion photographers are usually very good at this and the results can render very dynamic and impactful imagery. As with anything, photographic rules should really be considered guidelines. Challenging them can truly be half the fun. Just know that most viewers are effected by balance and tend to appreciate images of the stable variety, over ones that tend to cause neck strain.