This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of these links it means we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More

Active Space In Photography: What Is It?

It might not be as known as the other elements of photography, but active space shares the same importance with the other elements that take an active part in photography and in building something pleasing and attractive for the human eye. Photography per se is complex and that’s not just by chance.

As a way of expressing art, photography requires some skills and creativity in order to be ready to be called a piece of art. Active space in photography might not be mentioned and discussed much, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant, on the contrary, active space plays a “vital’ role during the process of capturing and building the most photography.

Playing with the elements of the photography and trying to navigate with them in the best way possible, is defined as composition, and composition is where an amateur and professional photographer differ.

And when we talk about composition, we can not escape and not talk about balance, because is all about balance, in real life, in art, and in photography as a form of art. We as humans can’t function with only chaos or with only order, we can only function if we have a balance and that’s also the case with photography.

What is active space in photography?

There are so many complicated definitions but let’s start with the simplest one and then we can expand, and I would like to add a definition myself, I give my word not to make it complicated, that’s a promise. So, active space in photography is the space where the object in the photography is facing.

Or, by my estimation and according to my opinion, active space is the space between the facing part of the object in the photography and the corner of the photography to which the object is directed. Does that make sense?!

Okay, let’s make construction in our head what I just said by giving an example. So, let’s say, we have photography of a person driving a car. Active space is the space between the front part of the car and the corner of the photography where the car is headed. I think we get it now, do we? If not, we will comprehend it until the end of this article.

Active space can also be defined as part of the photography where you can see an activity already happening or activity is just about to happen. Imagine photography of a girl running. The active space is the space between her and the corner of the photography that she is facing. So, you can imagine that she will be running over that space, figuratively speaking.

Active space’s tricks


I had to make this one a heading and not leave it just as a paragraph because it is one of the most important things when it comes to active space in photography. What’s important to know is the fact that active space can be unrecognized by the photographer, which means, most photographers use it while building their compositions but they are just not aware that they are using it.

This can happen if the photographers focus way too much on the other elements that they think are more important than active space and they just don’t pay attention to how they are using active space or if they are using it at all. But, you know how they say, devils are in the details and a great photographer would definitely notice it and deal with it.

The Tinder Trick

Okay, now that I have your attention by mentioning tinder, we can start talking about this kind of trick that active space can do to you and your work.

Now, we talked about the definitions of active space and we even formulated a definition of our own, but regardless of how many times we mentioned that active space is a really important element of your composition, I steel feel like you are asking yourself why, why is active space important. Well, let’s give an answer to you why.

Active space defines the way the viewer will move on with your photographs, So, if the subject in your photo will be moving towards the right side, the viewer will swipe right, and the opposite if the subject is moving towards the left side, the viewer will be swiping left. See, Tinder swipes.

As humans, we do this instinctively. Our brain is giving us directions at that moment, so if you are still asking why active space is important, there you have the answer, you literally mess with the viewer’s brain if you use active space effectively.

The opposite of active space in photography

Dead space in photography is the opposite of active space in photography. So, dead space in this case would be the space behind that girl running in that photography.

Dead space is the space where no activity is happening or it has already happened so there’s nothing left there, that part of the photography where nothing is happening.

Applicability of active space in photography

If you are thinking, come on, is not like people take only pictures of moving things or things that are actually doing something or that in every picture activity is occurring!

Well, you are probably right, not every photo out there contains an activity happening or a subject or object moving, but most photos of the engines that can be run by people, such as cars, bikes, all contain movement, so they have to have active space in them. 

Final Words 

Now that we have come to the end of this article, I really hope that you have it clear what active space in photography is and I also hope that you are convinced to pay attention when using it in your photos. Just remember that every single detail in your work matters and as such it’s seen by someone who is better than you, and who is more careful towards the details, and who really pays attention and is devoted to his or her work.