You may have heard of symmetry being an important compositional technique to know as a photographer.
But did you know that asymmetry is just as important?
In fact, many photographers believe that asymmetry in an image makes it more interesting and dynamic.
Well, in this guide, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about asymmetry and asymmetrical balance including the definition, examples, and how to use it in your image.
Whether you’re a beginner or an amateur photographer, as long as you’re trying to improve your composition, then this guide is for you.
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What is Asymmetrical Balance in Photography?
Asymmetry, or asymmetrical balance in an image is when the weight of elements in your photo are unevenly distributed, creating a visual tension and interest in your image.
Asymmetry is the opposite of symmetry.
Photographers often use asymmetry in their images to manipulate the visual weight of elements, either to convey a certain mood or enhance a certain story they are trying to tell.
For example, picture a charming cobblestone street lined with colorful houses, each slightly different in shape and size.
The asymmetry of these buildings would contribute to a unique visual impact, showcasing the rich tapestry of life.
We can find beauty in the contrast of old and new, the juxtaposition of colors and textures, and the interplay of light and shadow.
Why Use Asymmetry in Photography?
Why use and create asymmetry in our photographs? Isn’t symmetry supposed to be the epitome of beauty and balance?
1. Dynamism and Engagement
Photographers use asymmetry in photography to introduce unpredictability and add a sense of dynamism and engagement.
Sometimes, photos that follow symmetrical balance can be lackluster and cookie-cutter.
Asymmetry adds a touch of excitement, if done properly.
Asymmetry challenges our eyes and our minds, leading us on a visual journey filled with discovery.
2. Depth and Complexity
Asymmetry also adds depth and complexity to an image.
Consider a still life photograph, where an arrangement of various objects is carefully composed.
A small delicate flower may be placed alongside a large, weathered book.
Together, these two would create a harmonious imbalance.
Through understanding and practicing asymmetrical balance, we can elevate our ability to create photographs that are not only visually appealing but also tell compelling stories.
3. Add Emphasis to an Image
Using asymmetry in your images can also allow you to add emphasis to certain parts of your image.
Think about it: when we look at a symmetrical object, our eyes swiftly scan the perfectly mirrored shapes. This can lead us to find little to spark curiosity or excitement.
But introducing asymmetry into the equation changes everything.
Suddenly, there is tension, a sense of imbalance, and an opportunity for surprise.
As viewers, we become engaged, actively exploring every corner of the frame, seeking balance and connection between seemingly disparate elements.
With asymmetrical balance, the rules of composition are still followed, but with a twist.
Instead of evenly distributing visual weight, we purposefully create unequal emphasis, pushing boundaries and playing with expectations to captivate our audience.
It’s like crafting a puzzle where every piece has a unique shape and role to play.
Each element, whether big or small, bright or muted, holds significance, inviting us to delve deeper and uncover the hidden stories within.
So now that we know the importance, how do we go about actually creating asymmetry and asymmetrical balance in our photos?
How to Use Asymmetrical Balance in Photography?
To achieve asymmetrical balance in our photos, we must consider the placement, color, and shape of the objects we capture.
These are all the ways I love to use when I want to add asymmetrical balance to my photos:
1. Rule of Thirds
One fundamental principle of asymmetrical balance is the rule of thirds.
The rule of thirds is another compositional technique and it is a great way to introduce asymmetry into your image without even knowing it.
Imagine dividing your frame into three equal vertical and horizontal sections, forming a grid of nine boxes.
Placing your subject off-center and aligning it with one of the gridlines or their intersections adds a sense of dynamism and intrigue.
This technique enables you to break away from the conventional symmetry found in many photographs, unlocking endless creativity.
Another way to add asymmetrical balance in your photos is through framing.
Just like the rule of thirds, framing is another compositional technique that can be used to introduce asymmetry into your image without knowing it.
Framing can magically transform a symmetrical object into an asymmetrical composition.
By cleverly positioning objects or utilizing natural elements such as branches or doors as frames, you invite your viewers to explore the scene beyond what is immediately visible.
This technique not only adds depth but also enhances the overall balance of your photograph.
If you’re having trouble framing in real-time, review your images in post-production to see if there are any asymmetry opportunities.
In your favorite editing software, by judicious cropping, you may find asymmetrical balance in a scene that you may not have noticed before.
3. Color and Shape
The use of color and shape in your images is another great way to introduce asymmetry into your photos.
Bold, contrasting colors and dynamic shapes create a visual tension that draws the eye.
Imagine a photograph with a vibrant red flower blooming against a backdrop of lush green foliage.
The asymmetry formed by the color contrast and the subtle variations in shape makes the image come alive, exuding energy and vitality.
By juxtaposing opposing elements, such as light and dark, smooth and rough, or soft and hard, we create a visual tension that contributes to the asymmetrical balance.
4. Object Grouping
Object grouping is another way we can add asymmetrical balance to our images.
By grouping objects of varying nature, we add depth and dimension to the composition.
This technique is especially effective when photographing still life or portraits.
Imagine capturing a close-up of a person holding a delicate flower in their hands, with the flower dominating the frame while the person’s face remains smaller in size.
This intentional manipulation of visual weight generates a captivating and thought-provoking image.
Grouping objects in different sizes adds yet another layer of interest to your composition.
Imagine a photograph capturing a series of rocks, each varying in size and shape, arranged asymmetrically.
This interplay of sizes not only adds to the asymmetrical balance but also creates a mesmerizing visual rhythm, leading the eye through the scene, which can evoke a sense of wonder and discovery.
5. Photographing Complex Subjects
Sometimes, it’s hard to purposefully capture a scene with asymmetry in it, especially if you are capturing street photography.
So one way I like to increase my chances of capturing asymmetry in an image is to photograph complex subjects.
For example, consider a bustling street scene with pedestrians, cars, and buildings.
Each element within the scene has its own unique shape, color, and size, and together, they form a captivating asymmetrical balance.
By skillfully capturing the complexity and diversity of such scenes, you create photographs that are rich in both narrative and visual appeal.
Lastly, remember that you can observe and capture asymmetry in both natural and human-made environments.
For example, a mountain range with varying peaks and valleys, or a downtown cityscape with varying building heights.
Asymmetry is all around us.
By intentionally arranging elements in a composition, we can inject a sense of tension, interest, and uniqueness into our images.
The use of techniques such as the rule of thirds, contrasting colors and textures, and grouping objects of different sizes helps us achieve asymmetrical balance, resulting in more dynamic and visually appealing photographs.
By understanding and practicing asymmetrical balance, you have the power to transform your photographs from ordinary snapshots to visually captivating works of art.
In conclusion, asymmetrical balance is a great way to create visually captivating and dynamic photographs.
By embracing the beauty of imbalance, we can better capture a reflection of the world around us where perfect equilibrium is rare.
Think about it. Would a perfectly symmetrical photograph capture your attention as much as one that is asymmetrical? Would it not be the asymmetry that adds depth, intrigue, and a touch of unpredictability?
Asymmetrical balance is an invitation to explore new perspectives, to break free from the ordinary and embrace the extraordinary.
I urge you to experiment with placement, color, shape, and size to create compositions that evoke emotions, tell stories, and capture the essence of the world around us.
Through understanding and practicing asymmetrical balance, we can unlock new horizons of creativity and create photographs that truly resonate with our viewers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of asymmetry in photography?
The purpose of asymmetry in photography is to create visual interest and dynamic tension by deliberately positioning subjects or elements off-center, leading to a more engaging and captivating composition.
Why is asymmetry appealing?
Asymmetry is appealing because it breaks away from predictable and monotonous arrangements, adding a sense of uniqueness and liveliness to an image that can draw the viewer’s attention and evoke a stronger emotional response.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.