Balance is an odd thing in photography. It’s one of those things that’s difficult for people to quantify – especially observers who aren’t familiar with critiquing photography. They look at the image, something feels a little bit off but they can’t quite put their finger on it. It’s what people often mean when they say “Oh, that landscape could do with a person in that bit over there”, because an image looks perhaps a little lopsided and uncomfortable.
In this video, photographer Pat Kay walks us through “Balance” in episode 9 of his series on visual patterns. It’s a well thought out series, and if you want to see them all, there’s a playlist here, but I felt that balance was a topic that often seems to stump photographers, isn’t spoken about as much as things like “The rule of thirds” and other popular topics, so needed to be featured here.
Pat’s almost-15-minute video goes into balance in great detail. And he begins by saying pretty much what I’ve stated above. It’s difficult to quantify, there are many different interpretations for what balance is and just as many different ways to implement it in your photography. But he doesn’t just talk about balance from a visual point of view, but a slightly philosophical and psychological one as it relates to photographs and the person viewing them.
While things like the rule of thirds, the golden ratio and various other popular photography tropes are ultimately about trying to create balance in your images, they’re most certainly not the end of the story. They’re guidelines for those who haven’t yet mastered composition and truly understand things like balance and visual harmony in images. Learning to understand them is the next step in the composition chain.
But with “balance” being a subjective thing and photography as a whole also being an entirely subjective art, you’re never going to be able to please everybody with your images. And different people may or may not see the balance and harmony you try to put into your images, but working on improving your own interpretation of balance will help you to more easily connect with the viewer as you begin to better implement it in your photography.
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