7 Quick Tips on How to Use Visual Balance to Make Better Photographs

7 Quick Tips on How to Use Visual Balance to Make Better Photographs


Balance is one of the characteristics of good composition. It is the way elements of an image are arranged to create a feeling of stability. If you imagine that your image is a set of scales, all elements of your composition should be balanced to make a photograph feel stable.

balance 1 eva polak

There are many ways to create balanced images. The easiest way to achieve it is by using symmetry, as it guarantees left to right, or top to bottom balance. The results look formal, organized, and orderly.

If you would like to create a balanced composition that feels more casual, free, and energetic, then use asymmetry.
To understand this concept, let’s go back to our analogy of a set of scales. If you have several small items on one side, they can be easily balanced by one large object on the other side. Visual balance works in a very similar way, but it can be affected not only by the size of objects, but also by their value, colour, texture, quantity, orientation and isolation.

Different colours, shapes and sizes create different degrees of visual interest. So, to achieve asymmetrical balance you need to arrange elements of all different visual weights, when composing your image, in such a way that each side is still balanced out.

balance 2 eva polak

There are seven basic factors to consider when you compose your images with visual balance in mind. Let’s have a close look at how you can use these different factors affecting visual weight and gain some advantage.

1 – Colour

1 Colou by Eva Polak

Colour has many properties that can affect an object’s visual weight relative to others in the photograph, such as saturation, brightness, darkness, and hue. Warm colours advance into the foreground and tend to weigh more than cool colours, which recede into the background. Red attracts attention better than any other colour, and thus has the highest visual weight as opposed to yellow, which has the least visual weight. Also bright colours attract more attention than subdued colours.

2 – Size

2 Size by Eva Polak

Large elements appear heavier than small ones. Size is an evident visual weight factor because, in the physical world, an object that’s bigger than another will naturally be heavier, and will take up more physical space. Large elements command more attention. We naturally see them first, or spend more time looking at them anyway.

3 – Value



Value is a powerful tool for balancing images. Dark elements feel heavier than light items. The higher the value-contrast (between object and background), the heavier will be the weight of the object.

4 – Texture



Texture adds visual weight to items in photographs. Texture is just more interesting and our eyes are drawn to it. Smooth areas will feel lighter than those with a lot of heavy texture.

5 – Isolation

Objects isolated in a space appear heavier than those surrounded by other elements. Look at the image below with a brown circle on it. Your eyes go directly to the brown circle first because there’s nothing else to see.



6 – Quantity

A few small objects can balance out a single large object. Repetition of objects can be used here as well. In the example below, the three small berries are balancing out the large berry.



7 – Orientation

Vertical objects appear heavier than horizontal objects. A diagonal orientation carries more visual weight than a horizontal or vertical one. Lines can be very powerful in your composition. Pay close attention to them.



Remember, you don’t have to balance colour with colour, or light with dark – you can mix and match your visual weights. For example, a counterweight to a large, bright area might be a small red object. Experiment with different kinds of balance and play around with visual weight. See what works best for your images and the story you want to tell.

As you go out exploring with your camera on your next photo shoot, keep balance in mind and the seven factors of visual weight. Look closely and try to determine which elements are commanding the most visual weight when you compose your photographs, and see how they affect balance in your images.

If you have any comments or questions please post them below. And we’d love to see your visually balanced images.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Eva Polak is a photographer, artist, author and teacher, and is well known for her enthusiasm and passion for impressionist photography. She is an author of three books which are outlining ways to use your camera for painterly effect. Eva has had three solo exhibitions and has participated in a variety of group exhibitions. Her photographs are in private collections in New Zealand, Australia and Europe. As an educator, Eva has passed on her knowledge and experience to keen photographers through a variety of workshops.

  • Judith Laguerre

    Thanks for sharing such wonderful tips, Eva! I think the smaller leaves balance out the larger one in the photo below and as told in tip # 6 quantity. Hope you like the photo!

  • Eva Polak

    Great image Judith!

  • Bob Bevan Smith

    I agree with most of your points, but I take issue with red v yellow. The Human eye sees yellow with the most effect. If there is no or little yellow in a picture, then sure, the eye will be drawn to red. But if there is a bright yellow, then that will attract the eye. It is no coincidence that emergency workers have yellow jackets.
    In the attached picture, the yellow bush stands out; and I bet the yellow paddle attracts your eye before the red. This picture also shows an upset balance – the kayak in the top left destroys the balance between the Scouts on the raft v the Scouts in the two nearer kayaks.
    Also, your metaphor of the scales is only applicable to some situations; balance is often a matter of placement rather than weight. Or dark v light.
    But overall a great article!

  • SteveR

    Great article!

  • Nilanga Witanage

    I also use many of these things. Especially I like isolation concept. you can see things that you don’t see normally. Nice article.

  • Eva Polak

    Thank you Nilanga. 🙂
    What a great image!

  • Eva Polak

    Thank you!

  • Eva Polak

    Thank you Bob for your comments! I’m not an expert in colour perception, so I can only share what I’ve learned from studies about this subject. I can agree with you that yellow will be more visible than red in some situations.
    Composing a good image is not only a matter of finding balance between elements, as balance is only one of the 7 principles of design, and as you accurately pointed we need to also consider contrast, hierarchy/placement, scale/proportion, dominance/emphasis and unity.

  • Judith Laguerre

    Thank you!

  • Judith Laguerre

    Thank you 🙂

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