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Did It Do It: Did It Have Balance Part II

In my first post on “did it have balance”, I talked about creating Balance in your photos.

Every shape, color value, line, areas of mass, (for example a building, tree, people, etc.), provides weight that when arranged correctly in your composition provides a way to pull the viewer throughout the frame, creating a feeling of balance. The balance occurs when the viewer’s ‘eye’ moves in a steady flow without one single area stopping it or bogging it down.

To keep your photo balanced, it’s important to counter-weight an element with another object with a similar mass. This can be done with different degrees of contrast, different colors, and differing areas of light and shadows.

In my first post, I talked about creating Formal Balance in your imagery. In this post I want to address the other kind of balance which is Informal Balance or Asymmetrical Balance as it also refereed as.

Informal Balance unlike Formal Balance is more interesting to look at. Instead of mirrored subject matter on both sides of the vertical center,  the balance will still rely on an imaginary center point, but now the elements are different in size, shape, color, and mass. The balance comes from the the placement of these elements in the frame in spite of their differences.

That being said, Informal Balance is more difficult to achieve than Formal Balance. Creating and assigning the relative values to completely unrelated objects can take practice. One way to test whether or not your photo has balanced is to turn your photo upside-down.

In the above photo, I’ve created an asymmetrical balance by capturing the scene from a different point of view. The angle I choose created the feeling of stability needed for the viewer to perceive a sense of balance. I’ve deliberately manipulated the subject in such a way as to balance the visual weight in both the classic car and the building.

Balance is an important part of my teaching with the PPSOP, an online school, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and check out my new 2013 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com


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    { 6 comments… add one }
    • Sara April 21, 2013, 1:18 pm

      Can you discuss why you didn’t include the very top of the building in the frame? Is it because it’s not the main subject, so visual tension (with the top near the edge of the frame) would not be as strong? Or was the blue triangle of the sky you created more powerful in your opinion? Or were you simply not able to create the balance you wanted without separating the blue sky into two areas? Trying to understand a bit more about how you use/don’t use all the tools you teach about in your classes… thanks!

      • Joe April 22, 2013, 2:10 pm


        You’re close to being right.

        I wanted to include it but to do that I would have had to back off the car. I was using my Mamiya RZ67, which is a 2 1/4 X 2 3/4 camera. I had on the widest lens you can get for this camera and was just about on the ground. The Art director was more interested in getting the car “up close and personal”, so to do that meant cutting the top of the building off. In this situation, it really didn’t bother me.


    • Gary Thursby April 21, 2013, 9:58 pm

      I am having a little trouble understanding this post Joe. I have read it a couple of times and am still a little unclear. Is it asymmetrical balance because the horizontal line of the car would mimics the vertical line of the building? The car and building kind of form an L? Hey nice Buick!

      • Joe April 22, 2013, 2:18 pm


        The frame is just about split with that imaginary center line. It’s the shape of the car and the right side of the building that creates the informal balance, even though the “size, shape, color, and mass” are different. Having said that, I also positioned the car and my camera so the car’s lines WOULD mimic the buildings’…so, good eye on that!!!


        • Gary Thursby April 22, 2013, 5:56 pm

          You know I almost bought a RZ67 but setteled for a origional m645 instead. For me and what I do, 6×7 seemed a little overkill. 645 is pretty big leap over 35mm and I am happy with the pictures I take with it. God bless you digital for making these great cameras dirt cheap!

          • Joe April 23, 2013, 12:14 pm


            I loved it because it gave me a rectangular image. I also loved that you could just rotate the back to change from horizontal to vertical.


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