Lesson #2: Balance

Balancing photos is an essential part of composition. Often in photography forums people ask what’s the best camera to get for the best photos. Or ask for critique on photos that were taken with top of the line equipment. When people talk to me about my photos they’ll ask me what kind of camera I have, or how many megapixels it has. These are fundamentally the wrong questions when asking how to get better at photography. All the equipment in the world can’t save you from a poorly composed photo. Balance is critical when choosing what to show in a photo. It can distract from the intended subject, or highlight it.

For this second practice, I thought I would take a break from my normal scenery. I spent a day outside at Big Shoals State Park, an area on the Suwanee River just north of Fort White, FL.

There are five things to balance a person (or subject) against.

  1. The Biggest. This can be something like a building, a tree, or an overhang. Here’s one of me with a tree for balance.

Big-Shoals-29.jpgThe tree offsets the person and allows the eye to focus on the subject.

2. The Brightest. downtown-la-9I couldn’t get any great pictures from the Big Shoals trip but here’s a good example from my recent trip to Chinatown in LA. The bright sign balances out the photo- it would have looked odd if J. had been right under the sign . There’s also almost equal distance between the right edge of the photo and the sign, and the left edge of the photo and J. That type of balance is important, too.

3. The Most Contrast

Contrast can be in color, or in light. In the first picture, I have a nice little bird house in a field. Ideally, the subject should be where it balances out. As you can see from the second picture, this didn’t happen (ignore the squinty messy hair thing I’ve got going on). big-shoals-3big-shoals-5

Had I taken a few steps to the right, the photo would have been much better balanced. Also please ignore the squinty face. I haven’t gotten to the posing part of the book yet, and I am terrible in photos. 😦

4. Patterns

This flower bush provided good patterned balance to the photo.




Lessons learned:

  1. It’s difficult and time consuming to take photos of yourself with a tripod and remote.
  2. Evaluate photo composition before you leave the location.
  3. Pay attention to where you are in relation to your subject. Pay attention to backgrounds. Really, just pay attention.

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