One powerful way to capture outdoor photos that make viewers pay attention with admiration is to thoughtfully compose a scene with proper balance throughout the frame. The quick tutorial below from Mike Smith provides several helpful techniques for doing just that.
Smith is a noted British landscape photographer who regularly shares secrets to his success with straightforward tutorials on his popular YouTube channel. He kicks off this 10-minute episode by saying, “balance is a sure-fire way to make sure that your photos stand out.” He also provides helpful advice on using color and explains what he means by “conceptual balance.”
This lesson will help you understand why some images are particularly impactful, even though the viewer can’t explain why they’re so esthetically pleasing—they “just seem to work.” One attribute of balance is that it simplifies chaos and confusion by eliminating elements that detract from the story that you’re trying to tell.
Smith says the goal is to “photograph with intention.” You can do this by taking a color, a dominant object, or a brighter area within a scene and position it within the frame so that it that it directs a viewer’s eyes to where you want them to go without any distractions in the way.
According to Smith composition is all about where you stand, in that moving slightly in one direction or the other can often make a big difference. Taking a high or low vantage point, instead of shooting at eye level, is another way to capture photos that look different and fresh.
There’s an important thread running throughout this lesson, which is this: Upon arriving at a destination it’s important to thoughtfully scrutinize the surroundings before pulling out a camera and getting to work. One compositional trick that often works wonders for photos with balance is to look for areas of symmetry within the frame.
Symmetry is often very effective in creating balance because one half of the shot is typically very similar to the other. And this holds true whether you’re shooting in a vertical or horizonal orientation. It’s important to remember, however, that all symmetrical photos aren’t what you’d call balanced, nor do all balanced photos display symmetry.
In this regard Smith provides an example of placing a key object “bang in the middle of the frame.” He says this approach is too obvious and it’s a telltale sign that you’re a beginner. While watching the video you’ll learn several powerful compositional tools that are very effective, including what Smith refers to as images with a horizontal or vertical split.
Smith also demonstrates how the intentional use of color is another way to create nicely balanced photos. As he explains, “different colors help attain balance because bright colors tend to attract attention, giving more weight to that portion of the frame.” He provides a few great examples of how well this works.
There is much more to learn on Smith’s popular YouTube channel, and in a tutorial we posted earlier, explaining how to shoot eye-catching outdoor photographs in harsh light.