Rule Of Space (What is the Rule of Space & How To Use It in Photography Composition)

Have you ever been shooting and wondered to yourself, “Where should I place the subject in this image?” Well, the Rule of Space in photography will help you know just where to place your subject.

So to begin with what is the Rule of Space?

The Rule of Space in photography is simply the act of adding visual space in front of the direction that an object is moving, looking or pointing to imply motion and direction and to lead the eye of the viewer. Pretty simple right? 

Look at the image, and think about where you look first.  You looked at the bird.  Where did you look second?  Most likely, you looked in the direction that bird was looking to see what it was looking at, and because nothing is there, your eye gravitated back to the bird.

But just imagine if I framed this image like this. This part of the image looks dull and dead and it is not catchy at all.

This is how the human brain works.  And knowing this gives the photographer immense power on how to compose an image and where to place the subject in the image for maximum interest.

Now I come to my tips to help you apply the Rule of Space in your photography.

1. Isolate the Subject

A photo attempting to use space to provide a narrative cannot do so with a stationary main subject. The subject needs to allow the viewer of the photo to follow their gaze or their motion. It’s also not necessary to see any faces either. The person can have their back to the camera gazing into the distance.

2. Wide Angle

Shooting wide will give your scene an epic sense of scale, and it’s easy to produce negative space. It also gives you room for mistakes, as you can recompose your image in post production to give attention to the subject and its gaze.

3. Motion

By placing space in front of a moving object, you give a feeling of motion and direction. Like here the vehicle is moving to the left hence composing it to the right makes sense. But if I were to place it like so, it leads the viewer’s eye out of the picture.

4. Rule of Thirds

According to me, the rule of thirds complements the Rule of Space like no other composition rule. Divide your frame in a 3×3 grid and place your subject along the lines or at the intersecting points of these lines. Just make sure you give more space to the area where the subject is looking and not vice versa.

5. Leading Lines

Leading lines are lines that direct the flow of the viewer’s eye in the image. You’ll want your main subject to be looking or moving along your leading line. Lines that run through a photo, such as this fence, can add strength to an image.

6. Patterns

Negative space doesn’t mean you have to include an empty sky in your photo. It’s better if the negative space has some level of interest to it, with a pattern like cloudy sky, brick wall, clump of trees, etc.

7. Breaking the Rule of Space

Like with all the composition rules, when you follow the rule, you create harmony and balance in an image. When you break the rule, you create tension and discord. This is why sometimes breaking the rule is essential for creating a strong image.

As you begin to place your subject according to the Rule of Space, you will become more proficient at it and become a better photographer with more visually appealing images.

I hope you liked my blog. Do let me know your suggestions and thoughts in the comments section. Thank you!

Also Read – Leading Lines in Photography

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