Composition: How to build an image between harmony and balance

Field, symmetry and compositional rhythm. Some rules that give the image an aesthetic sense and emotion


There are images that strike us particularly and to the eye are exceptional: they are works that excite the sight and the pleasure of the mind, perhaps for the narrative content or rather for the technique.

In any case, whether they are images elaborated by a meticulous calculation or an impetuous instinct, which are a reflection of the real world or the result of the most hidden fantasy, that of the composition is the essential, primary and essential artistic moment that gives the “weight visual “and balance: it’s the inevitable moment!

If the composition is able to provide unprecedented beauty to the image, it is necessary to give thanks to him who, first among the “modern”, identified its importance: Cezanne.

“In painting you have to agree on the eye and the brain, sensation and intellect” Cezanne argued; and again “in nature there is disorder, we need to put order”: the order of which it speaks is, indeed, that of composition.

The aim of a journey in design, and of the whole complex body of disciplines in this regard, is precisely that of obtaining the ability to give life to “visual texts” that can intrigue, fascinate and intrigue by the grace of technique.

It works as for writing a written text: as in this case there are rules of grammar, syntax and spelling to be respected, even in the composition of images there are morphological and chromatic rules.

Knowing the rules is of fundamental importance although it is advisable to go beyond them, to dare, to create new ones, thus avoiding the risk of giving life to boring and “rigid” jobs.

Composing (from the Latin “cum laying” or “putting together”, “putting close”) consists, in fact, in putting close two or more colors, two or more forms, coordinating them: in this way one supports the other and the work will get aesthetic balance, acquired by a pleasant, pleasant graphic form and a valid psychological balance, necessary to give the work the expression of the content.

The artists in a broad sense as painters, photographers, but also directors, look at what is within their field of vision but, when they create an image, they select what is eloquent and expressive, extrapolating it from the frame.

In an era in which images are definitely in inflation, an artist certainly can not risk falling into the most obvious banality or the empty and passive selection.

Compose therefore also means to choose consciously, and in fact the first activity that is carried out concerns the decision-making about the things you want to represent and to follow the arrangement within the field.



The composition of an image should be the way in which an artist manages to overwhelm the eye and the mind of the “receiver”, with meticulous and surreal works that are aesthetically balanced as much as on an expressive level: it should, in some way, be the reflection of the artist’s soul, a burst in the chaos and the noise of reality, that manages to kidnap and transport the viewer, transforming it into harmony.

Composing an image means creating a “visual text”, where the aesthetic purpose is pursued by means of the arrangement of the elements within the frame, the expressive one is instead connected to compositional schemes that always have a meaning able to evoke emotions.

For example, the arrangement according to classical trends (horizontal, vertical, oblique) give rise to explicitly static rather than dynamic compositions.

To compose and give life to the union between harmony and balance, there are rules to make their own and to follow, but the same were born to be broken: the advice not to create stereotyped and “empty” works is to overcome the rules themselves, find their own style and give birth to works made of musicality and grace.



A vacant box contains certain dynamic potentialities. Most of the time the dynamic effect of the lines, shapes and colors of the image has absolute dominance. The edges of the frame can have more or less influence and the edges of the frame, together with the corners, are decisive in the composition: this is how they come into contact with the diagonal lines of the image giving rise to angles with a decisive visual impact.

In order to give dynamism to the scene, the use of diagonals is profitable.

The shape of the field has definitely a certain influence on the composition, although using cameras and / or various digital tools are mostly used in fixed formats, such as 4: 3 in digital, at least for what concerns photography.

To get a better visual impact it is a good rule to take advantage of natural frames like doors, windows and so on.

The “field” is nothing other than the frame, the format, or the box in which the image to be acquired or to be made is composed. Considering that the framing is two-dimensional, one can not avoid saying that, from the geometric point of view, there are significant phenomena: it is clear that the geometry of the plane and the three-dimensionality of space are completely distinct things.

As for the shapes, it is necessary to take into account the blurs, the large depths of field as essential.

There are subdivisions of the field that give a certain vivacity and, at the same time, structurality to the same image. Everything influences the variation of the display or the angle of the shot, but also the type of 3D construction.

It is almost divine the existing liaison between visual arts, grammatical rules and mathematical sciences: visual art is communication and artistic communication is certainly a complex phenomenon like any other type of communication.

But as in any type of communication, even the “visual grammar” has rules: it has its own syntax, functions and is used in various ways.

Regarding the field, within the rectangle, must be identified that for some is the focus, which is a center, although in practice never a subject never poses in the center of the frame: what would be outside would be a lack of naturalness.

But even if perfection does not belong to this world and, consequently, to create a perfect image or a perfect photo is an abstract idea, there is something to be pursued, like the “golden section”.



The man who has always aspired to the ethereal and has always been investigating the strange laws that govern the world, tries to emulate the perfection that belongs only to the world of the divine: science and mathematical rules were the means of which, even today , it is used to pursue its purpose.

Thus, in the distant 300 a.c., the mathematician Euclid, together with the colleague Archimede, elaborated a geometric relationship that gives the compositions a supernatural equilibrium: the golden section, also known as “Divine proportion” is in fact the basis of all constructions.

It can be said that a straight line has been divided according to the extreme and average proportion when the whole line is at the major part as well as the greater one is at the minor. (Euclid)

Geometry has two great treasures: one is the theorem of Pythagoras; the other is the division of a segment according to the average and extreme ratio. We can compare the first to a certain amount of gold, and define the latter as a precious stone

Kepler said and certainly was not wrong! Considered already by antiquity, a warning to the canons of beauty of grace and harmony, this proportion has attracted not only mathematicians but also historians, artists, biologists and even ascetics!

Paraphrasing what is the graphical representation, the golden section corresponds to an irrational number, 1.6180339887 …, which can be represented by a line: the whole line is 1.618034 … times longer than the longest segment and the shortest segment is 1.618034 … times longer than the shortest segment.

An example that can give the idea of ​​such wonderful beauty is the Parthenon: the architects Ictino and Callicrate, in the second half of the fifth century, have summarized all their architectural experiences in the Parthenon, making the Greek ideal of balanced measure.

This monumental beauty is to be seen as an organism, where every part of it has reason to exist, only in that place and in no other. Everything is meticulously the result of calculations of a logical order.



Of pictorial origin, it consists in dividing the scene, the frame, in three horizontal and three vertical parts and positioning the point of interest in the intersections: nine modules will be obtained and the aim is to then use the obtained axes or crossings.

In fact, the most relevant elements must be positioned along the horizontal and vertical lines.



To have a “balanced composition” it is necessary to dose, the right weight and the direction.

The eye always wants its part and is essential for it to conquer the mind: the dimension, the color, the context within which it is placed are all elements that come into play to trigger the chemistry, like when we are in love, in an imponderable, incomprehensible and mysterious way.

There is a directly proportional relationship between the weight and the “isolation” of the subject that varies according to the color: a sort of “visual oxymoron” which, paradoxically, makes sure that the light colors weigh more than the dark ones, and the warm colors more than cold ones.

The equilibrium, by definition, occurs when all the forces involved intervene a certain pressure on a structure producing no movement: the moment in which the high and the low are superimposed, the forces that govern the world are canceled, ceasing to to exist. And how it works for the weights of a scale, the composition balances when the weights of the figures are balanced and the visual text elements are perceptually stable.

The image, to be successful, must therefore have a certain “visual weight” within the frame, that virtual force that pulls and draws the attention of the viewer.



They say that the stars have the strength to guide the navigations and indicate the routes and according to a mysterious rhythm of the universe everything moves, everything dances and transforms: in the same way, every human being has a motivation, a rhythm inside the soul and when he reaches the ear, he feels it and recognizes it as sublime and gives the illusion of belonging.

The rhythm: what defines the feelings before the words can be found. Each composition, as well as balanced, must be varied in rhythm and form: the contrast that arises from a tall and a low subject, from a large subject and the other small, creates a strong link between the forms. This is how attention is taken away by a point of attraction!



“The book of nature is written with the characters of geometry” (G. Galilei)

The simple and regular forms are those that are most easily imprinted in the memory and with the same simplicity they resurface.

The organic and inorganic living structures present in nature are the most immediate examples of symmetry: just think of the perfection of a butterfly or that of a shell that, for our perceptual system, is an aesthetically harmonious factor.

What the human eye can do is the mirror elements. Creativity is undoubtedly a marvelous privileged form of the artist’s language that, in a unique and original way, becomes a mirror of the world and of the whole universe, it is “intuition that becomes expression”.

The visual text, in the reader’s eyes, will therefore be communication, intellectual elevation, prostration to God, detachment from reality and perspectivism: composition and perspective are the tools through which the artist puts order and balance between lines and shapes, giving life to works that have a visual sense and a spatial three-dimensional effect.

Like the foundations of a house that if it were not there would not be any solid, in the same way there would be no good work without an effective composition and, in the case of figurative art, no good prospect; and again, there would be no “illusory” art, no dream vision, no good matte painting if there were no basic god-like composition.

The rules of design