Photography: A balancing act

Composition, in photography, means setting up your image so that it helps anyone looking at it to see what you want them to see. There are lots of online sites that tell you about the various techniques, but most of them will also tell you that, sometimes, you should throw away the rule book. It’s your photo – use YOUR judgement.

I’m just going to list eight of the techniques before I go any further, just to get that out of the way.

  • COMPOSITION
  • Simplicity – less is more and get rid of distractions
  • Symmetrical balance – useful particularly in a shot with reflections.
  • Asymmetrical balance – For example, with a seascape, don’t put the horizon exactly half way up the frame.
  • Radial balance – for people with an artistic eye
  • Rule of thirds – mentally divide the frame into a 3 by 3 grid. Put your subject at about 1/3 up and 1/3 in or 1/3 down and 1/3 in (from either side). (Personally I think that this is just a kind of asymmetrical balance).
  • Leading lines I’ll illustrate this by examples
  • Golden Ratio -for people with an artistic eye
  • Framing – show your subject inside a frame – natural or otherwise

I’m going to ignore Radial Balance and Golden Ratio but add a ninth and tenth – Colour and People. Again, I’ll provide an example.

In this image of the South Stack lighthouse on Anglesey, I’ve placed the horizon asymmetrically.

This image, taken at Trefor Boatyard near Llangollen in Wales is fairly symmetrical to show off the reflections.

This is an example of a structural leading line formed by the Humber Bridge. The underside of its image drags the viewer’s eye into the frame.

Another example of a radial leading line formed by this spiral staircase at the Queen’s House at Greenwich. The eye is drawn to the skylight.

Here, the beach at Porth Oer on the Lleyn Peninsula provides a natural leading line. Other examples are rivers, roads and jetties.

You’ve seen this one before, but here I’m using it to show how the clouds act as leading lines.

Here, leading lines and symmetry are combined at the Brunner Bridge in the South Island of New Zealand.

Here framing is provided by the gateway entrance into Exchange Flags, Liverpool to draw attention to the Town Hall.

There are two other useful techniques, using colour – especially spot red – and people (preferably both). In this shot, the people provide a focal point, interest and perspective to the image.

Here we have symmetry, reflections, people and colour to draw the eye.

Today’s featured photograph is of the Healey Pass in the Beara Peninsula of Eire’s Wild Atlantic Coast. It has an unusually winding leading line to take the viewer’s eye on a road trip. I shot this panoramic image using my old Pentax 24 MP cropped sensor camera on a tripod with an 16-85 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens at 23 mm and f/13. The ISO was 400 and the shutter speed 1/10 seconds.

Your probably fed up by now, so tomorrow I want to look at a different aspect of light – Dynamic Range.

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