Fundamental of Photographic Arts

Design Basics Used to Create Balance

The Chinese have a theory that you pass through boredom into fascination and I think it’s true. I would never choose a subject for what it means to me or what I think about it. You’ve just got to choose a subject, and what you feel about it, what it means, begins to unfold if you just plain choose a subject and do it enough.
––Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus was a highly original photographer who has greatly influenced the course of contemporary photography. In her Photography: A Cultural History (2002), Mary Warner Marien writes:

Arbus turned normalcy on its head, making the ordinary bizarre and naturalizing the unusual. In her photographs of people, many of them made while she roamed the streets of New York, clothes and cosmetics are futile efforts to camouflage psychic emptiness or damage. When Arbus photographed children, she revealed them as little versions of bad-tempered, mean-spirited adults. […] On the other hand, her photographs of people at the margins of society, such as female impersonators, show them to be more virtuous for having unmasked their subjective inclinations. For Arbus, marginal people were symbols for her own psychological fragility and trauma (p. 352).

The thematic power of Arbus’s work is based on the masterful composition of her subject matter, balancing key elements within a square frame format, which is uniquely identified with her mature style.

To prepare for this Discussion:

  • Review Chapters 2 and 3 in your course text, The Photographer’s Eye.
  • Review Diane Arbus’s photograph, Child with Toy Hand Grenade, 1962.
  • Review the websites from this week’s Learning Resources for more inspiration and examples of photographs.
  • Consider the following questions regarding the Arbus photograph:
    • How does the use of a square frame impact the balance of the photograph?
    • What elements contribute to the balance of the photograph presented here? Would you say this is a balanced photograph? Explain your response.
    • Does this composition draw your eyes more to the center of the frame or more to the edges? Give evidence for your response.
    • How does the photograph demonstrate contrast, tension, rhythm, and/or depth?
    • How does the subject of the photograph relate to the background?
    • How is perspective created in the photograph?
    • Is the photograph more weighted toward information or emotion? Explain your response.
  • While considering the questions above, compare the assigned photograph with Arbus’s 1967 photograph, Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967. Explain how these photographs differ and how they are similar.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 3 a response that addresses three of the questions. Analyze how Arbus uses placement to create or disrupt a sense of balance in her composition. (Approximately 250 words).

In your post, be sure to:

  • Refer to one specific example from your course reading.

Be sure to support your ideas by connecting them to the week’s Learning Resources, or something you have read, heard, seen, or experienced.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.

Respond by Day 5 to at least two of your colleagues’ postings that contain a perspective other than yours.

  • Explain how your colleagues’ perspectives can either:
    • Align with or complement your perspective.


    • Contrast with or be in opposition to your perspective.



    Required Resources

  • Freeman, M. (2013). The photographer’s eye: Graphic guide: Instantly understand composition & design for better digital photos.Burlington, MA: Focal Press.
    • Chapter 2, “Placing” (pp. 30–47)
    • Chapter 3, “Dividing” (pp. 48–61)

      In these chapters, you will learn about different aspects of color photography, including the uses of rich color, pastel hues, muted color, contrast, and accent, and the relationship between color and theme.

  • Expert Photography. (2015). Balance in composition: Everything you need to know. Retrieved from
  • Garrison, T. (n.d.). Visual balance—means taking another look. Retrieved from

    On this website, Garrison explains the difference between formal balance and informal balance.

  • Gumport, E. (2011). The long exposure of Francesca Woodman. The New York Review of Books. Retrieved from

    This resource focuses on the eerie quality to the black and white art of a young photographer on the 30th anniversary of her death.

  • Oppenheimer, D. (n.d.). Diane Arbus. Retrieved from

    This website provides a biography of well-known New York photographer Diane Arbus.

The following websites comprise galleries that allow you to experience the fundamental elements of photographic art.

Get a 10 % discount on an order above $ 50
Use the following coupon code :