Balancing a Composition

A balanced composition has masses that are distributed across the image. Most nude compositions are simple, having just one mass. (Visual mass is the magnitude to which a form or shape attracts the viewer’s eye.) The relative sizes and placement of various masses within a composition are what
determine if it is balanced.

Imagine your image as being balanced on a pivot point, like a seesaw, and ask yourself which side is
heavier. If both sides are equally weighted, you have balance. An image does not need to be symmetrical to be balanced, nor do the elements need to be spaced equally from the center. A sense of balance is somewhat will vary from person to person. But, it is not difficult to reach consensus on the balance of most compositions.

Three Kinds of Balance Summarized

  • Formal balance: Symmetrical photographs work best when the balance of the symmetry of the subject itself is the strongest, most interesting factor about it. (See image #1)
  • Informal balance: The most common kind of balance; the composition is balanced between left and right halves by elements of equal visual weight.
  • Radical balance: The line of equilibrium is far from the center. (Image #2)

1. Being close to symmetrical is an easy way to make an image balanced.


2. Balanced images can still have a sense of tension.

About A. K. Nicholas

A. K. Nicholas is an American photographer with a passion for collaborating with models and sharing knowledge. His vision is colored by being raised abroad and traveling to dozens of countries, including museum visits and other cultural experiences. In the Middle East, he observed how women's bodies were hidden from public view; in most of Europe, there was little prudishness. In his youth, he put in his dues clerking and staffing the darkroom of a camera store. His background includes an art degree, a long stint as a freelance artist, and a career as a professional photographer. His first camera was hand-made from an oatmeal box for a middle-school project. His first nude shoot was a complete surprise to him when a classmate in college assumed that his invitation to model meant for her to be nude. In the decades since then, he has photographed hundreds of nude models for publication in books, articles, as framed prints, product advertisements, stock agencies, and gallery exhibits. His exhibit work consists mainly of photomontage, sometimes printed life-sized. These days, when he picks up a camera, it is to fulfill a personal calling and not the agenda of a client. He is happiest when working on creative projects and devotes as much time as possible to new ideas. His second favorite thing is helping others further their artistic endeavors. He writes to help you learn from his experience, including how to avoid some common mistakes and to encourage your creativity.

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