Balance in every aspect of your composition and visual design in photography is a very important yet under-stated factor. As artists, we photographers not only create things that can be seen by other people’s eyes but instead we create visual experiences that most of the time, we aim to be satisfying or thought provoking to anyone who sees and experiences it. That is why photography goes way beyond merely pressing a button and creating an image because the images that come out of a photographer’s camera creates a perspective that depicts an entire world within it.
Balance is one of the most crucial and at the same time, most basic factors to consider in composition and visual design. How we choose to place our subjects and other relevant visual elements within the four corners of the frame has such a huge impact on the perception and the thought process of the viewer which is why it has so much to do with how satisfying our images are to look at.
Balance in Various Forms
There are various aspects in which we should aim to achieve balance in composing our photographs. Balance is crucial in exposure because it dictates the amount of detail that we can see in a photo and also plays a role in the mood that a photograph can convey. Another crucial aspect is visual weight. This pertains to how much attention a particular object in a photo attracts and how it affects other objects in frame. This can either be because of sheer size compared to other visual elements, general brightness, or luminosity of the color of the object. To achieve balance, a visually heavy object on one side should be matched by another object (or space) with equivalent visual weight. This is not to be mistaken as automatically having the same size as the other element but instead the same visual impact.
Of course a perfect example of balance in visual weight is symmetry. In photography symmetrical balance can be achieved by aiming for the right angle in which everything is aligned to make all sides equivalent to each other. It is hard enough to find objects with perfect symmetry in the world, and it is another endeavor to be able to capture it in perfect symmetry. However, achieving balance in visual weight does not alway have to have perfect symmetry. In asymmetrical balance photography merely has to be composed in such a way that even though one side is not the mirror image of the other, they draw equal attention to each side.
Another crucial aspect of balance in photography is balance in color. Balance of color in photography can come in a number of ways. White balance in photography means achieving the right color temperature of the photography that will give you a truly neutral white. This is often seen in a spectrum of colors between blue and yellow which are totally contrasting hues. When you achieve proper white balance photography can be considered color accurate.
Another aspect of balance in colors is through contrast and color harmony. The presence of many colors in a certain photograph can either result to harmony between the different colors or conflict among them.
Balance in Exposure
Exposure is one of the first and most crucial aspects of photography that any beginning photographer should master. The parameters through which we control the brightness of an image, namely shutter speed, ISO, and aperture, collectively known as the exposure triangle have everything to do with how we achieve balanced exposures to attain the right amount of detail. The concept of the exposure triangle is precisely a representation of how these exposure settings are used to achieve balance by using one side or factor to compensate for limitations of another. When the situation calls for a fast shutter speed, ISO or aperture can be used to compensate for the reduction in brightness that the former would entail. Of course in this, all three are interchangeable. The limitations on either of the parameters would depend on the context of the shot and what is being photographed. For example if a fast moving object is being photographed then the situation would necessitate a fast shutter speed and the other two aspects would compensate. On the other hand if a wide depth of field is necessary to have capture multiple layers of detail, then ISO and shutter speed would have to compensate for the limitation imposed on aperture.
However, there are a multitude of instances wherein even a good balance in exposure settings would not be enough to achieve a balanced frame. The most common of which are high dynamic range situations such as an outdoor shot where the sky is exponentially much brighter than the foreground. In such situations, various techniques on compressing the dynamic range are necessary. For photographing portraits this could mean using external light sources to illuminate the darker parts and thereby achieve better balance. However, for other situations such as in photographing wide vistas, high dynamic range (HDR) and exposure bracketing are necessary. Exposure bracketing is done by taking 3 or more consecutive exposures that have incrementally different levels of brightness. These exposures will later on be combined to extract the best detail out of each one to come up with the most balanced and most detailed shot possible.
To simplify this shooting process, a smart camera remote trigger makes all the difference. The MIOPS Smart+ has built-in HDR and time-lapse HDR modes that will make setting up your workflow much smoother through the smartphone app interface. Meanwhile, the MIOPS Flex not only controls your camera to trigger the multiple incremental exposures but also creates an instant preview of your HDR images to give you the assurance that you need for the success of the shot.
Balance in Visual Weight
Visual weight entirely relies on the angle of the camera and how that results to particular objects being placed in specific parts of the frame. In photography symmetrical balance is achieved through meticulous framing and composition that requires immense attention to detail and the use of proper tools. To make precise adjustments to specific axis of the camera angle, a geared precision tripod head provides efficient control. To be guided on levels and alignments, various display modes on your camera can provide assistance in making sure that your horizon is perfectly leveled and a standard grid on the camera’s screen can help with all the necessary alignment.
To help you better monitor your frame especially when having to shoot from an unusually high or low angle, the MIOPS Flex acts not only as a remote camera trigger but also as a transmitter for live view monitoring. The device transmits your viewfinder feed onto the the MIOPS mobile app on your smartphone or tablet which will in turn help you to see the details and the alignment from a more comfortable position and possibly a much larger screen that that of your camera.
Balance in Direction
It is safe to say that for any photograph to have a dynamic composition and visual design, it would have to give the perception of depth and multiple layers within the frame. A static photograph would require a simple glance from the viewer but a dynamic photograph would entice the viewer to take a tour of the frame. This is why direction and how your viewers’ eyes are guided by your visual design as they go in and around the photograph is a crucial aspect of photography. The use of lines on an image often lead the viewers towards a particular portion of the frame and the coherence of the flow of the photograph depend entirely on where the lines will lead the viewer. One crucial detail about direction is the horizon on your images. If the horizon or any object that gives clues on the orientation of the horizon are seen, having it tilted towards one side puts an imbalance on the composition. The visual weight of the side towards which the horizon is tilted gets heavier and the perspective is thereby altered. This same principle also applies to vertical lines specifically those that are by context expected to be perfectly vertical. Tilting your camera up or down can distort the perspective of the image which can result to adding direction that may or may not contribute to the flow of the image. The convergence of lines created by this effect is not necessarily a bad thing but instead, something that should be used with caution. This adjustment allows you to manage the space taken up by objects in your frame and negative space that will be part of the image as well. When used properly to achieve asymmetrical balance photography will result to an image that creates a coherent visual experience for the viewer.
Balance in Color
Color contributes so much to the overall beauty of an image. The abundance of colors may automatically be a source of visual impact to a photograph but balance in colors can make or break how satisfying the image can be. Without proper white balance photography can end up with unintentionally skewed context especially when photographing natural environments. A warmer treatment can illustrate unrest and activity while a cooler tone often suggests calm or gloom. Properly achieving balance in color is necessary to make sure that the image conveys the right message and the right context for the story that it tells. On the other hand, proper contrast of colors contribute much to how harmonious multiple colors in a frame will be and how they create a sense of order in the photograph. Achieving such balance depends on how we select our subjects and the colors present in the photograph, as well as how we find tune their specific hues in post production.
Balance is one of the most crucial aspects of a photograph and no matter how beautiful the subject or the location of a photograph can be, an imbalance in the various aspects can definitely make or break the beauty of a photo.