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How to Improve the Balance of your Photos by Paying Attention to the Corners

Balance is a very important aspect in photography. If you are aiming to create a balanced photo, then there is one key that is often overlooked.

The corners of an image.

Our eyes have a natural tendency to want to dart off of the sides of a photograph when we look at it and so, when we can, we need to use the edges to fight this natural urge.  Putting elements in the corners will stop the eyes so that they move back into the scene.

When you are framing a photograph look into each corner to see what is there.  It can often help to cut off elements.  A hint of a stair, window, or tree branches will simultaneously make us feel like the full element is there while still grounding the photo and pushing our eyes back into the middle.

If you’ve noticed why some photographs feel balanced and some don’t and can’t tell why, the corners are often the reason.

Here are 5 examples to look at.

Jimmy Webb, Trash and Vaudeville

The corner lines all lead the eyes to the middle, except the lower left corner, which adds another level of interest but still eventually pushes the eyes back into the photo.

Flat, East Village

Notice on the top how you only need a tiny area in the corners to provide balance.  You can see how this effect applies to the elements on the top and left and right sides of the photo as well.

5 Canal Street, Chinatown

The lines all push the eyes into the scene.  Notice how there are two ‘corners’ providing balance on the top right.

Shipping Docks, Cortlandt Alley

Red Wall, Midtown

The ‘corner’ elements don’t have to be at the very edge.  They can be further away from it.  They just have to provide the feeling of balance.


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James Maher
James Maher

is a professional photographer based in New York, whose primary passion is documenting the personalities and stories of the city. If you are planning a trip to NYC, he is offering his new guide free to DPS readers, titled The New York Photographer’s Travel Guide.
James also runs New York Photography Tours and Street Photography Workshops and is the author of the e-book, The Essentials of Street Photography.

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