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What Is Radial Balance in Photography?

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Related course: Simply Stunning Landscapes

When we aim to create interesting images, we utilise compositional techniques in our scenes. There are the usual rules, and then there are the uncommon ones, such as radial balance.

This form of composition aims to balance the image through symmetry or asymmetry. Read our article on how you can add them to your imagery.

Photo of the night sky in radial balance

Common Questions

What Is Balance in an Image?

Balance in photography is a very handy way to add interest to a scene. Many objects or scenes we aim to capture can be asymmetrical. By capturing them head-on, the image becomes balanced due to the equal weight.

We can look at the top versus the bottom, or the left versus the right. Corners can also work well. The important thing is that the opposite sides have a balanced weight.

When we look at balance in photography, we talk about formal and informal techniques. The symmetrical balance would be a formal balance, whereas an asymmetrical balance would be informal.

These different types cover different forms of balance — forms, such as subjects, colors, tones, or even scenes of a conceptual nature.

Photo of a spiral staircase in radial balance

What Is Radial Balance?

A radial balance is a form of balance that looks at lines that circle and diverge into the center. They can occur naturally or can be created using photographic manipulation.

Think about a lizard’s tail curling up or an aerial shot of a circular staircase. There are many examples of balance found in nature.

Also, almost anything can become a radial balance when using editing software such as Adobe Photoshop.

You can find a radial balance in abstract ideas. These include subjects such as kaleidoscopes, which work with color balance.

Mandalas look at color balance, but also the shape, form, and flow. Snowflakes don’t provide color balance, but they are excellent in form and texture.

Saturated landscape photo with natural radial balance

Is Radial a Type of Balance?

Radial balance is a type of balance that aims to bring stability and peace of mind within an image. The subject needs a correct capture, as the perspective of the shot is just as important as the subject.

If the scene is a little ‘off’ and unbalanced, the viewer might feel a sense of angst. If the scene doesn’t provide a symmetrical balance, then the viewer doesn’t recoup an aesthetically pleasing feeling. Nor do they feel a sense of comfort.

Radial balance can help draw your eye direction to the center of the scene. It can help bring the viewer’s eyes to a subject placed in the center. This works in the same way as the compositional tool ‘leading lines‘ would.

When it comes to composition, we aim not to place the subject straight in the middle of the frame. We see this as not creating the most pleasing or satisfying image possible.

Similarly, you can, of course, break these lines and cause an unbalance if it fits the mood or theme of the scene.

Images don’t necessarily need to have lines to be a radial balance. It is possible to have a central figure, surrounded by an even distribution of subjects. This aims to keep the scene balanced. Here, the ‘radial’ aspect comes from the movement of your eyes around a scene.

Photo of a spiral staircase in balck and white

What Is Asymmetrical Balance Photography?

More often than not, we try to achieve balance in a photographic image. This helps to create an aesthetically pleasing scene for the viewer. But, there are times where you want to escape that balance.

This depends entirely on the subject and theme of the image you are capturing. An off-center, asymmetrical perspective can strengthen a darker, moodier environment, for example.

There are a few ways this can be achieved. If the natural, architectural scene is balanced, use an off-center perspective. Shoot the scene from the side, rather than straight on or from top-down.

The easiest possible way is to find a scene that presents an unbalanced, asymmetrical view. Then you only have to capture the scene as it is.

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