Photo Composition Rules: Balance

balance in photography


This is quite a tricky composition rule to explain and it’s one that we probably apply unconsciously, as our minds seek balance in images and art. A balanced image feels right, pleasing and stable.

A balanced photograph

In this balanced image you could divide the photo in two and it’s roughly symmetrical and the children’s positions are almost mirror images of each other.

In a balanced image there is perhaps some symmetry and the main subjects have equal weight or importance in the shot.

Photo composition balance


balance in photography composition

Reflections can create very balanced images.

An image is well balanced if the subjects, colours, areas of light and dark, different textures etc are arranged in a way that they complement each other.

How to use balance in photography

So far we have looked at formal balance, using symmetry and subjects that are of equal weight. This creates an image that is pleasing to look at. Informal balance is where one subject or area of the picture has more importance than another. The eye will typically look first at the stronger subject and then onto the secondary one. The lesser subject may be a detail that sets the scene or helps tell a story or even creates tension.

Informal balance in photography

The main subject is nicely balanced by the second subject – the plane – which sets the scene for us.

informal balance photography tip

In this image both figures balance each other nicely but there’s a slight tension as they are facing different directions.


using informal balance in photographs

The brighter, bigger flower in the foreground is balanced by the second, out of focus and darker flower in the background. This is informal balance as there’s no symmetry and one flower is obviously the main focus.

With informal balance it’s important that the subjects are placed correctly, otherwise the image jars and feels wrong, unbalanced. Keeping the rule of thirds in mind can help and using other rules like diagonals and leading lines too.

unbalanced image

The top image feels wrong as the macaroon on the table is too close to the bowl and the vase in the background is too close to both the bowl and the macaroon. The bottom image feels more balanced.

I run courses and offer one to one tuition to beginners and improvers, so if you’d like help getting to grips with your camera then click on the links and take a look.

Did you like this blog post or find it useful? If so, please leave a comment, sign up for email reminders at the top of the page or share it with your friends (or even better, all three!!). Thank you – Jane :-)


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4 Responses to Photo Composition Rules: Balance

  1. Carolynne September 29, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    Easy to read and remember! Thanks Jane. Cx

  2. AnnetteM September 30, 2015 at 6:57 am #

    Useful tips. I do try to arrange my photos, but haven’t particularly thought about things balancing each other. This will help – thank you.

    • Jane Burkinshaw October 5, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      Not always easy to think about as you are shooting but the results can be well worth it. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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