Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding what balance is in an image, part of Introduction to Photography.
- So you're out walking around, you've got your camera, you see something you want to shoot, you can point your camera at that thing and take a picture. Or you can put some thought into it and compose a picture, make a picture. In this case Jacob, our director, was walking around and he saw me sitting on this wall and he composed the shot this way. Composition is something that you will study and refine for the rest of your photographic life. I define composition as the process of ordering the things that are in the frame so that they make sense to the viewer.
We read photographs just the way that we read text on a page. Our eye moves across the page. As Westerners, you go from left to right. Other cultures maybe photographs in a different direction. And as our eyes move around they are guided by the graphic elements in the frame. They are guided to understand what is the subject and what is the background, in a well composed photograph at least. So there are a lot of different things you can do, a lot of different tools you can use to work up a good composition. And I want you to start thinking right now about one of the easiest and one of the most critical, which is balance.
Right now I am sitting in a frame that is very well balanced. Now, I could go into a definition of why I think this frame is balanced, but to be honest I can't really come up with one that satisfies me, I just know this one is balanced. And if that sounds a little flakey to you, let me show you an unbalanced frame, or what happens when we put me just in the center of the frame. It just doesn't work anymore. It's not a bad shot, but it's not as good. Something about the weight of the composition is off.
And your eye is a little confused about some of the other stuff in the frame. There's stuff over here that maybe doesn't make as much sense as it did before. This is, first of all just the difference between good composition and bad composition, and in this case more specifically, it's the difference between balance and lack of balance. Let's go back to the balanced shot now. Again, balance is something that you will just feel and there are a lot of things that make up balance in a frame. You can balance one level of brightness against another level of brightness.
You can balance a piece of geometry against another piece of geometry. You can balance one subject against another. You don't have to have an explanation for why a shot is balanced, you just have to know that it is. And your sense of balance will develop as you practice more. A lot of times in composition, especially when working with balance, tiny, tiny little details, tiny particulars are very important. Right now this frame is well balanced, but watch the difference of just a tiny, little change in composition.
This frame doesn't work as well. There's a hook of some pavement down there at the other end of the wall. We need that in the frame for some reason. Without it, the shot just doesn't work as well. These are the little details that you have to consider when you are composing a shot. And sometimes you'll be out doing it and you'll find yourself getting real finicky about two lines at the top of the frame that are intersecting and you think, you might go I'm thinking about this too much. You're not, this is what makes good composition, paying attention to those kinds of details. And that's why so many of these Lynda frames are composed so well.
They're very good at working out these kinds of details and building up really good compositions. So, in this chapter I'm going to ask you to start practicing the use of balance in a frame and simply going into the world and trying to build shots that are well balanced. Before you can do that though, we have to talk a little bit more about how your camera works.
Then it's time to take to the field and examine the rest of the factors that influence the quality of your photographs, including light metering, focus, composition, and flash. Ben also introduces techniques for shooting portraits and shows what you can do with an image editor in post. Last but not least, he'll provide a roadmap for learning more with the lynda.com extensive library of photography training. The path to becoming a better photographer begins with the first step. Start here!
- Exploring cameras and lenses
- Understanding media
- Controlling exposure
- Composing with autofocus
- Shooting portraits
- Understanding form and geometry
- Exporting and editing digital images