Lesson 20: Active Space

20Shooting moving subjects is always a challenge. The time is short and usually you don’t have a second chance, so you must think and act fast. One of the most important rule that you’ll have to consider when shooting moving subjects is to give them space to ‘move into’. The main idea behind this is to frame in that way so the subject will have space in front of it. Some call the space in front of a moving subject the ‘active space’ in a photograph. Alternatively the space behind your subject is often called ‘dead space’.

The reason that this compositional technique is used is that when someone views an image and sees that your subject is moving in a direction, their eye naturally moves in that direction too. It’s something instinctive. Working with the way your viewer will instinctively view your image helps to create balance, drama and anticipation in your shot. This technique of creating active spaces in action shots can be applied in many types of photography including sports (cars, bikes, people etc), wildlife (photographing a running animal) or any other subject matter that is moving.

Active space

As with moving subjects, the same rule applies when taking photographs of people. If your subject is looking left, place him/her on the right – allowing him/her to look into the photo. This will create a sense of balance and depth. Similarly, if your subject (be it a person, dog, elephant, whatever) is facing a certain direction, the space should be given to that side.

Of course, as with every rule there are times to break this one, but in general you will find that it works well.

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