Shape photography: how to balance your composition (and when to break the rules)

Managing shapes in silhouette photography

On a few occasions here at Digital Camera World we’ve mentioned the importance of balancing shapes and tones in your photo composition. This is a rather vague-sounding notion, in comparison to more scientific discussions about the Rule of Thirds and the impact of leading lines. This is something we’ll attempt to put right, because shape photography, though we shoot them so often, doesn’t seem to be mentioned very much in textbooks. But does have a real significance on the impact of your photographs.

Shape photography: how to balance your compositions (and when to break the rules)

Many pictures rely on balance – or at least they fall down through a lack of it. They may have an object near the edge of the frame on one side with nothing of interest on the other side to act as a counterweight.

It’s like a set of kitchen scales with a bag of sugar in the bowl and no weights on the other side. But it’s not as scientific as our example makes it sound.

You don’t necessarily need an object of the same size, tone or colour, and it doesn’t always have to be on the diametrically opposite side of the frame.

Shape photography: how to balance your compositions

You may find the tiny silhouette of a park bench provides just the counterweight you need for the silhouette of a tree, for example, or that one figure you framed for foreground interest in your shot is perfectly balanced by a distant figure further away.

That doesn’t mean you have to go around looking for counterweights for your subjects, though this can be an effective compositional technique.

But what can often happen is that the scene you’re photographing contains more than one element and that you can’t (or don’t want to) exclude these additional elements.

That’s when you have to develop your sense of balance. Maybe looking at a couple of examples will help.

PAGE 1: Achieving balance in your shape photography
PAGE 2: Choose your own rules of shape photography
PAGE 3: How to manage silhouettes

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