Composition: Being Creative with Space

During 2020 I ran a photography challenge over on my travel blog looking at different techniques throughout the year. I was not expecting that the year itself would prove to be a challenge in that the Covid-19 pandemic hit us and not only put paid to any travel plans, but also altered the way in which we conducted our lives. This year I am going to look at those techniques again using new photographs as and when I get the opportunity.

July was the last of the six visual keys which help to create a great photograph, being creative with space. Space is a difficult one to explain in photography. When is it too much? When is it not enough? Generally speaking it refers to the empty or negative space around your subject. Usually sky or water or some bland background. Or you might want to use positive space where the image is deliberately chaotic.

If the subject is looking away from the camera leave space for your subject to look into – this creates a sense of mystery.

The same applies in an active shot where an animal or a bird or a person is moving. This requires space to move into whether running, jumping, walking or flying. Leaving empty space creates a more dynamic scene.

Empty space can create an air of mystery. A story.

Here by positioning the Herring Gull on the right of the image he has room to stare into the open space, the blue of the post almost the same colour as the sky keeps the viewer focused on the gull.
In this image the flower itself is almost central to the space, but because the foliage is on a diagonal you get a feeling of space around it.
The majority of this image is the sky, taking up a good two-thirds of the horizontal space. The muted tones of the barn and the grass blend in with the road which leads the eye around the corner.
Here I deliberately positioned the weathervane to the left of the composition so that the rabbit has space into which to blow the bugle. Also the sun was to the top left corner which creates a silhouette. Though the fact that the letters are back to front does rather annoy me.

And now two beach photos. The first one uses the expanse of the sea to make the figures seem very small and once again I have deliberately aimed towards the sun to create silhouettes.

This time I have reduced the amount of sky in the photo and concentrated on the wave patterns and the sun glitter. The diminutive size of the people paddling along the shoreline help to emphasise all the space and I particularly love how the couple in the foreground are facing in different directions and the couple behind them are standing perfectly between them. It’s the little things like this that make me enjoy photography so much.

My second beach photo concentrates on the textures. of both the wave pattern and the ripples of the sand beneath the water.

Here the expanse of water is used once again. Although I was intent on capturing the patterns below, the addition of the tiny isolated figures (who were so busy watching the waves they were in danger of being cut off) emphasises the space surrounding them. And yes, there are two people, not a three-legged man.

Photos with high amounts of negative space are:

    • Empty
    • Subdued
    • Peaceful
    • Calm
    • Isolated

I hope some of the above images had an effect on you.

Sometimes you don’t want to leave any space at all, the emphasis is on textures and details, a busy, crowded image with everything demanding attention. This is an example of extreme positive space.

An image crammed to the edges with so much to look at – colours, textures and shapes.

Every part of this image attracts attention, but none stands out significantly more than the rest. It’s all positive space.

Below I wanted to fill the space with the trees even though the figure walking towards me among the bluebells is the focal point.

In this one I wanted to fill the screen with the trees to emphasise their dominance in the scene and their straight lines contrasting with the curved path and rope edges in the very bottom of the image. Because it was spring there is still a lot of airiness in this image, though very little actual space.

If you would like to have a look at the different techniques covered throughout the year then you can see them here. Please note that I am not running this as a challenge, but merely using the old one as inspiration for my photography this year.

27 Comments Add yours

  1. margaret21 says:

    A nice collection. I particularly like the people on the beach photo.

    1. Heyjude says:

      I love taking those kind of photos.

  2. Alison says:

    Enjoyable read Jude. Makes photography that much more interesting.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Alison. I wanted to get out of the habit of just taking snapshots and be more mindful of what and why I was taking a photo.

        1. Murtagh's Meadow says:

          These are great examples

        2. Heyjude says:

          Thanks MM.

  3. restlessjo says:

    I really love your second beach shot and the lovely blurry waves. You will, no doubt, be entering 3 favourite images. Where will you start? Airport run completed and washer on. I always feel a bit moony but it’s silly really this time as I’ll see them on Friday. Have a lovely Sunday!

    1. Heyjude says:

      It’s a wet one so I’ll be watching the games. Yes, not long until you’ll be over. Being away from family is what you give up when you live abroad, only you can know if it is worth it. You probably see them more often than I see mine. (and I’m referring to the ones in this country! πŸ˜‚)

      1. restlessjo says:

        Raining oop north too but brighter later. They will be over flying yours in grey skies about now. Floors mopped and a bit of order restored. 2nd wash load in when I get my breath back πŸ€—πŸ’—

        1. Heyjude says:

          I’ll give them a wave ☺️

  4. LianaB says:

    Thank you for revisiting this photo challenge. I was going to do do this in 2020 but failed – this is just what I need to find my phojo again.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Hope it helps! I’ve been a bit lacking in motivation this year too, so having something to focus on has helped.

      1. LianaB says:

        Yes I will start today as it is 1 August here. That’s if I can stay awake. Up late last night watching the Commonwealth games!

        1. Heyjude says:

          It is quite addictive! And at least I am able to watch it in the day time.

  5. beetleypete says:

    Great examples, Jude. You do beaches very well!
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      And I haven’t been to one in months! Hopefully I’ll have the car fixed in the next couple of weeks or know whether to buy a new one, then we can get out and about again.

  6. Ann Mackay says:

    Beautiful images and a great explanation of how to make the best use of space in photographs.

  7. johnrieber says:

    Yes, I spend time trying to find unique compositions to make the photo stand out a bit…doesn’t always work but fun to try!

    1. Heyjude says:

      Taking time over a shot definitely helps.

  8. All these photos are so beautiful Jude, and with the technical tips you’ve included I enjoyed looking at them even more.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Thanks Carol, I am glad you enjoyed them. It’s certainly helped me to have a focus on my photography this year.

  9. I found this so interesting. I’m still such a point and shoot photographer. Any great photos are always a fluke. I admire people like you who understand this stuff. Hopefully I’ll remember it next time I’m pointing and shooting. 😁

    1. Heyjude says:

      I’m still a point and shoot myself H. I just take longer to decide where to point before I shoot 😁

      1. Point taken. (Ha.) So really I just need to learn patience. 😁

        1. Heyjude says:

          Exactement! 😍

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