John Suler's Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche

Comments about Balance in Photographs

(return to the article about Balance)

Balance is one of the most complex aspects of composition because we humans experience it on so many different levels of perception, thinking, and emotion.

balance in photography

Up and down, left and right

This abstract photo illustrates a vertical balance between a hotel balcony and the parking lot beneath it. Notice the various dimensions of this balance:

- foreground and background
- above and below
- objects and their shadows
- green/blue complementary colors
- resting (hotel) and traveling (parking lot)
- the directions of the diagonal lines
- the left versus right horizontal movement associated with those lines

Can you see other types of balance here?

balance in photography

Mesmerizing circles and radials

As a ancient archetype, the circle is the quintessential symbol of centeredness, groundedness, focus, and balance. Circles within circles, which create radial effects, drive home this feeling even more, with the additional balance of movements that radiate outward and spiral inward simultaneously.

In this shot, the tilt of the subject and the painting creates an off-balance tension. Their tilts mirror each other, while providing a counterpoint to the relentlessly balanced circles. The overall effect feels hypnotizing.

balance in photography

Psychological balance

Our human senses tell us that inverted triangles are not stable. However, that might not be the general impression of a photo with a triangular composition. In this shot, the triad of siblings feels very grounded by the closeness of their bodies and intertwining arms.

(Photo by Asia Suler)

balance in photography

Form and emptiness

Perhaps at the root of all forms of balance are those between light and shadow, substance and emptiness. In this photo, we see that balance between the lighted subject and her ethereal shadow. Notice also the balance between left and right, up and down, and in the very physical act of teetering on one foot.

balance in photography

Birds of a feather

In this shot we see the balance between left and right, circular and square shapes, animal and human, rest and movement, up and down, the idea of supporting and being supported, and in a very physical balancing act that illustrates the psychological relationship between pet and pet owner.

balance in photography

When the one balances the many

Rhythmic geomertic shots like this offer a very strong sense of regularity and predictability. We also see a variety of balance in the types of circles: big and little, dark and light, circles of substance and circles that are holes. The somewhat unrelenting march of circles is balanced by the unexpected appearance of a tiny finger peeking out of one of the holes.


Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche