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What is Asymmetrical Balance Photography (And How to Use It)

Last updated: March 13, 2024 - 6 min read
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Asymmetrical balance photography is a type of composition where the weight of the elements in the photo is not evenly distributed. This can make for an interesting and eye-catching photograph because it creates tension and visual interest.

In order to create an asymmetrical balance photo, you need to carefully consider the placement of all the objects in your frame. If you do it unintentionally, your photo composition could look clumsy.

Continue reading for everything you need to know about how to create asymmetrical compositions.

Master Composition
Intuitive Composition
Intuitive Composition
You don’t need an expensive camera or an exotic location. Excellent photos depend on composition. Easily master 50 aspects of composition with this illustrated eBook and cheat sheets. It will make photography more accessible and enjoyable!

Symmetrical vs Asymmetrical Balance Photography

A photograph is symmetrical if it has two (almost) identical sides when “folded over” a central point of the axis. In other words, if you cut the photo in half, the left and right sides mirror each other. Or the upper and bottom halves imitate each other.

If we are very strict, symmetry means the two sides should be 100% identical. But in photography, this is rarely possible. For example, it is hard to find a perfect symmetrical balance in nature.

Reflections in lakes, ponds, or glass buildings can help you create symmetry in your photography. Symmetrical photos tend to be pleasing and balanced. They are also well-structured and convey harmony.

Symmetry draws the viewer’s attention to all parts of the image. Symmetrical photos have equally weighted visual elements on either side.

The only downside of symmetry in photography is that it can be boring. Have you ever looked at a photo and thought it looked too perfect or almost sterile? Symmetrical balance can sometimes create flat results in images.
photo of a canal with brick buildings on both sides

What Is Asymmetrical Balance in Photography?

When a photo is asymmetrical, it has unequal visual weight on either side of the photo. But those visual elements balance out each other.

This means that an asymmetrical photo still follows the rules of composition. It is not just a chaotic mixup of elements within the composition. Achieving well-composed asymmetry in your photos is all about manipulating the visual weight of the elements.

abstract photo of asymmetrical balance in architecture
©Juan Rojas (Unsplash)

Tips for Using Asymmetrical Balance in Photography

Now that we understand what asymmetrical balance means, let’s see how you can use it to your advantage.
Once you learn how to incorporate it into your images, you’ll start to see unique and dynamic results.
photo of a blue window with asymmetrical balance

1. Use the Placement of Elements to Your Advantage

Placement can be an excellent way to create asymmetrical balance. It manipulates size perception, which affects the visual weight of objects.

Check out this photo I took in Vienna. The church in the background is much bigger than the bike. But the bike is placed in the foreground, which makes it look bigger.

Colors also help balance the asymmetry in this photo. The bike and the church’s roof have similar colors. Even though they are not the same, they are both variations of turquoise. And because they’re so similar, both of them draw the viewer’s attention.

Last but not least, the shape of the two objects also enhances the asymmetrical balance. You can find this in the round shape of the bike’s wheels and the church’s structure.

photo of a turquoise bike with a church in the background
©Dora Jokkel

2. Manipulate the Framing

You can also turn a symmetrical object into an asymmetrical one by framing it in a different way. The photo of the green leaf below is a good example. You could frame it to show the symmetry of its veins along the axis from one angle

But this composition’s larger middle rib is closer to one side of the frame. This way, it creates an asymmetrical balance in the picture, even though the leaf is symmetrical.
close-up photo of the veins of a leaf

3. Apply Compositional Rules

One of the first things you learn when composing a photo is the rule of thirds. And this very popular composition guide goes against having symmetry in photos.

Instead of placing the main subject in the middle of the picture, you arrange it close to the intersecting lines. The rule of thirds is an excellent method to create asymmetry within a photograph.
photo of a fisherman on a boat on a lake

4. Group Objects Together to Create Asymmetrical Balance

Look for different-sized objects that appear in groups. The more elements there are in a group, the greater their visual weight.

Take a very general example of landscape photography. A big mountain tends to draw our attention in a photo. But if you place a few objects such as trees or rocks in the foreground, their visual weight will outweigh the mountain in the background.

Below is a photo I took in Paris. The Louvre is bigger than the chairs and the people in the foreground. But there are two people and six chairs. They gain visual weight because of their numbers. They balance out the massive building in the background.

photo of a fountain with green chairs around
©Dora Jokkel

5. Use the Complexity of Your Subjects

The complexity of your subjects can also create asymmetry in photography. Take a look at my photo of Budapest below.

The Hungarian Parliament building is huge and very complex. It catches the viewer’s attention easily. But take a look at the right side of the photo. You notice that a lot is going on.

For example, you’ll find a castle with numerous windows and buildings and trees below the castle. And you can spot a few docks on the river, too. Not to mention the Gellért Hill with the Statue of Liberty on top of it. The two bridges also lead our eyes from one side to the other.

This photo is a good example of how a smaller but more complex side can gain visual weight in a photograph.

photo of the Hungarian Parliament and the river Danube
©Dora Jokkel

Conclusion: How to Use Asymmetrical Balance Photography

Asymmetrical balance in photography is not always easy to understand. And it is even harder to put the theory into practice. But with a creative eye and practice, you’ll create more dynamic and exciting photographs.

Master Composition
Intuitive Composition
Intuitive Composition
You don’t need an expensive camera or an exotic location. Excellent photos depend on composition. Easily master 50 aspects of composition with this illustrated eBook and cheat sheets. It will make photography more accessible and enjoyable!