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Leaving Space Behind Moving Subjects – Composition

When photographing a moving subject the generally acceptable compositional rule is to place the subject in the frame with space in front of it to give it room to move into (creating ‘active space‘).

This is said to give the image more balance and provides the viewer of the image an answer to the question ‘where is the subject going?’

However rules are meant to be broken and as with every rule there are times when it can be very effective to break this one also.

1. Focal Points in the Wake

An ideal time to break this ‘rule’ is where the subject leaves something in their wake – Some moving subjects create a disturbance behind them in their environment that actually provides an image with a focal point that is worth including.

For example – the wake behind a surfer, the lingering vapor trails in a blue sky after a jet liner flies over, the clouds of dust after a rally car etc

In each of these cases the real action is happening behind your subject and to leave it out misses an opportunity.

Here some examples:

2. Conveying Speed

You might also like to break this rule when you want to accentuate the speed of your subject as placing your subject at the edge of your frame in this way can convey that they are moving so quickly that you can hardly keep up with them.

3. Showing the Journey

Lastly this rule is great for breaking when you want to convey something of the journey that the subject has already been on rather than where they are going.

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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