The 5 Keys to Award Winning High Impact Photography

4/5........The 4th Key: Balance

I guess its not so much as Balance as it is Composition, however given I feel that Balance is by far the most important compositional guide, I have named the 4th Key "Balance".

Again, looking at the numbers, when I studied the photos that did well in international landscape photo competitions a massive 80% of photos displayed a balanced composition. 

What is a balanced composition? It’s actually quite easy 

The photo below is an excellent example of a balanced composition.

How does it work?

Lets assume the red line is a seesaw / teeter-totter and the red circle in the centre is the pivot point. 

To achieve a balanced composition our aim is to frame the objects within out photo so that the see-saw is perfectly balanced. An equal amount of weight on each side.

You can see here our rather large triangular subject sits mostly to the right off the centre point, without the rocks on the left the photo would be in danger of being right side heavy, however with the inclusion of the rocks on the left of frame the image is very well balanced.

Have you ever ridden a see-saw with a little kid, you will know that to achieve balance the larger person needs to slide right up towards the middle. This rule also applies to compositional balance. A large object close to the pivot can be balanced by a smaller object nearer the edge of the frame.

Don't be afraid to put your subject in the centre.

In a lot of my portfolio photos you will see a big bold subject in a centre composition (, I get asked a lot why this is the case and why I don't use the Rule Of Thirds more often.

Firstly to achieve balanced, big bold subjects often can go nowhere other than right in the middle lets look at the example below

We have a very simple uncluttered balanced composition, If we modify the image a little to have the subject sit on the rule of thirds (See Below). We get an unbalanced awkward composition that doesn't really work.

Its not all about the rule of Thirds

I am getting a little of track here as I wanted to highlight the power of compositional balance, however given the rule of thirds has such a huge following among landscapers I feel I should touch on that too.

Firstly, I would definitely say that from a Landscape point of view Balance is much more important than the Rule of Thirds, who would have thought???? The rule of thirds is touted as the holy grail of composition, but that is just not the case.

When does The Rule of Thirds work?

My best guess is the current love affair with the rule of thirds came form portrait painting and portrait photography, because it works so well in those fields. Often you will see a portrait with the subject over to the left or right and often they will be looking into the large vacant area on the other side of the photo. It works very well. However most subjects we photograph in the landscape don't tend to be looking one way or another, so blindly following the rule of thirds often results in an unbalanced photo.

However there are times when the rule of thirds works very well within landscape photography. Often the horizon looks best placed roughly on the rule of thirds. Having 2/3s foreground and 1/3 sky can often give the photo a great sense of depth and 2/3s sky and 1/3 foreground can result in a feeling of space.

The rule of thirds can also work very well if our subject feels like its pointing in the direction of the open area. Often if one side of the subject is in light and the other is in shadow then having the light side pointed into the open space can also result in a strong thirds composition. (See the example below)


Above all other compositional guides Balance is the one that will most likely contribute to High Impact Award Winning Photography.

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