How to Achieve Balance in Your Photo Composition

According to the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the Balance is he state of a body when opposing forces acting on it cancel each other out by destroying each other. That is, we can ensure that something is balanced when it is compensated, stabilized, equalized, remains at 0, does not fall, or however you want to interpret it 😉 . So far so good, right? Now, how do we translate balance on a visual level? How do we know if something is balanced in an image? How can we apply it to our compositions? Is it necessary that there always be balance in them or can we play with the imbalance? Let’s see how to get the balance in a photographic composition.

But first, if you want to delve into photographic composition and learn all the tips and tricks for the most impressive photographs, I recommend this mega guide that we have prepared for you.

Visual weight and directionality

In photography (and whoever says photography says painting, graphics, audiovisuals, advertising, architecture, etc.) we speak of balance through of the relationship of the elements who appear on the scene and their visual weight. What is visual weight? 😉 The visual weight is the degree of attraction possesses the element in question, which is determined by the contrast of light that is established between the different elements that compose it. In other words, a large star attracts our gaze more than a smaller one, or the color red attracts us more than sky blue. Also, in any equilibrium, comes into play the direction towards which the elements move, be it literal or simply a subjective impression.

What does the visual weight of an object depend on?

We have already advanced a bit what characteristics an element must have to have greater or lesser visual weight or level of attraction. Let’s take a closer look at them:

Color: According to color theory, colors are divided according to different characteristics, each of which also has the characteristic of having less or more visual weight than its opposite.

  • Warm and cold colors: The warm ones have greater visual weight than the cold ones (we also say that they seem to “closer” more).
  • Brightness or luminosity: Dark colors (less brightness) weigh more than light colors (more brightness or luminosity).
  • Saturation: Or degree of color purity (intensity). The higher the saturation, the greater the visual weight and the lower the saturation, the lower the weight.

Size: The larger the size, the more the visual weight of the object also increases.

Situation in the frame: Items located on the upper part of the frame we perceive them as heavier. This is due to what is known as “psychological weight”. This weight is explained by the unconscious way in which we relate to the objects around us through our perception of the gravity. That is, since we perceive objects with gravity, we always tend to understand them by their attraction towards the earth. Also due to our way of reading, we explain that the elements located to the right of the frame have more psychological weight. We have already commented once that our way of reading images is the same as the way we use when reading text; from left to right.

Contrast: Everything that contrasts by differentiation to the rest, has more visual weight because it draws our attention more. Imagine a scene with a bunch of yellow screws to which we add an orange ball… What element do you think stands out the most?

Texture: A rough texture stands out more to the naked eye than a smooth surface, for example.

light on dark: Light elements on a dark background weigh more than dark elements on a light background.

subjective feeling: Depending on which shape has the most impact on the observer, its weight increases or decreases compared to another with more or less impact.

Isolation: An isolated figure stands out more than a group of forms.

Distance: An element placed in the distance is perceived as having more weight than a nearby one.

You must take into account when analyzing the visual weight of the elements of the scene, that the characteristics of the elements are combined with each other.

Directionality of the elements

We not only contemplate the visual weight of a scene, but also where it is projected, since this directionality of the elements gives us, like weight, a greater or lesser impact on the balance of the scene.

Form: The shape of objects projects through their lines, different directions and forces.

Theme: If we recognize the object in question, in many cases we can ascertain its directionality simply by its shape. For example a face, an airplane, a car, etc.

Movement: Beyond the literal movement, we can generate a sensation of movement depending on where we place the weight of the image. Think, for example, of the law of the gaze in which we leave space in the direction in which our protagonist’s gaze is directed, or in negative space.

Also remember the way we read and how this affects us in the way we perceive images and, consequently, in the way we compose (compositions from left to right are more natural to us).

Now, so far we have seen that all the elements in the scene have greater or lesser weight, depending on the level of visual attraction they generate, but beyond the weight of the elements in the scene and the directionality, how do we achieve balance? in an image?

Types of balance in the composition

Just as a balance is balanced when the weight on both sides of the central axis is the same, we have already commented in the introduction that the balance is based on the compensation of the forces so that the result of the same remains at 0, compensated or stabilized. There are mainly three ways to compose based on balance:

Static or symmetrical compositions: They are the ones that place the visual weights on both sides of the central axis (imaginary) so that both sides attract the eye equally, thus expressing calm, balance and rest (and, eye, boredom in some cases 😉 )

Dynamic or asymmetric: When we use different visual weights on both sides of the frame, we say that the frame is asymmetrical. The result is dynamic and vital compositions.

Imbalanced compositions: If all the weight is placed on one side of the axis, we say that we are facing an unbalanced or extremely unstable composition.


After the infinity of concepts that we leave a few lines above, the most important thing is that you act with instinct. Your gaze knows perfectly well what it weighs more or less, for a reason we work with our own human perceptions 😉 Try to avoid too symmetrical compositions (in mirror) and seek balance in more dynamic compositions. For example, the Rule of Thirds, is a more dynamic type of composition that is also very balanced, but not only that. Rules are there to break them, and so is balance 😉 You can convey many sensations with unbalanced images: overwhelm, chaos, etc.

I recommend that with a simple sheet of DINA4 paper with a line in the middle and a couple of objects of different shapes and colors, you try different positions of the objects on the plane and see for yourself in a simple way, the weights, the directions and the balance of the elements. Once you have it clear, to the real world. In it you will have many more distractions but also much more emotion 🙂

I hope it has been useful to you and that you can keep some of the concepts to enrich your images. Oh, and if you think someone could benefit from the article, go ahead and share 🙂 Thank you very much and see you soon.