WHEN framing a photo, we tend to focus solely on the subject. The colour, shape, texture and form of the subject must be positioned in a certain order, design and line to create a more engaging composition.

Space is one of the elements that focuses on the gap between the subject and the frame.

Effective use of space or empty areas in a frame can add creativity to visual composition, whereby the subject and the space complement each other.

Empty space adds simplicity to a photo because it can evoke different senses.

The following tricks on how to incorporate space in images result in better-composed photographs:

Remember the saying... “less is more”.


1. USE BALANCE: Go for a well-balanced ratio between positive and negative space. In this image of a Tibetan monk prostrating along a road during his pilgrimage to Lhasa, Tibet, I tried to balance his act of worship — the main subject — with negative space to show the peaceful state he was in despite the harsh conditions of his journey.



2. USE POSITIONING METHOD: Experiment with various methods on how to place an interesting subject in a frame with an intention to amplify space. Try placing the subject on the lines or at an intersect point according to the rule of thirds or the rule of golden spiral method. The powered-paragliding pilot in this image is properly positioned at one of the key points of the rule of thirds, while the negative space (the halo sun and the sky) surrounding it adds a dramatic effect to the image.



3. ADD MOOD: Maximise the use of negative space and create a clean, simple and minimal image. Add sense of lightness, romance, loneliness, despair and joy to your composition by being generous with negative space. In this photo of Mount Bromo’s landscape, the negative space creates a sense of calmness and solitude.



4. USE NEGATIVE SPACE: Positive space is the subject of interest in your photo while negative space is the space that surrounds it. Effective use of negative space emphasises the subject. In this photo, negative space seems to dominate the frame. The subject is just a small portion of the total image and the first thing we do is look for the subject. The negative space in this image leads viewers straight to the subject.



5. USE ACTIVE SPACE: The rule of space says that there should be enough active space for the subject to move or to look into. In this image of a Nepali woman looking out of my frame, the space in front of her is “active” space, while behind her is “dead” space. An active space provides an area for her eyes to linger while creating an illusion of movement to viewers.