A number of weeks ago I wrote a tip on the portrait photography composition technique of Giving Your Subject Space to Look Into. A similar tip for action photography is to give moving subjects space to ‘move into’.
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 spots that your subject is moving in a direction – their eye naturally moves in that direction too. It’s quite 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 virtually any other subject matter that is moving.
Note: Of course as with every rule there are times to break this one – but in general I find that it works well. Here’s an example of a time when it’s actually good to break the rule.