Silhouette of the subject and top of the frame outlined in red. Blue shows spacing between subject's head and the top of the frame.
Silhouette of the subject and top of the frame outlined in red. Blue shows spacing between subject’s head and the top of the frame.

Good spacing: another important part of good composition.

1. Let your subjects breathe

You can see how important having ‘good spacing’ is — which allows the subject in your frame to have some ‘breathing room’.

For example, in this photo, I have some spacing between the man’s head and the top of the frame. Not too much, not too little:

Obviously there is no science behind spacing, you just have to follow your gut.

2. White space around the head of your subject

Another photo of Cindy, here the spacing is a little tighter, but still enough to give her head some ‘white space’ around the frame:

Spacing in a photo I shot of Cindy, next to a windmill. Note the spacing in-between her body, and the legs of the windmill:

3. Spacing between multiple-subjects

Here is a frame from the movie ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ — note how all the subjects have good spacing:

Kiss Me Deadly

KissMeDeadly02 spacing composition


In the film: “Journey into fear”, I love the scene of the non-overlapping heads of the subjects, as well as the spacing between the heads, and their hands:


More good spacing in Citizen Kane:


Another scene from Citizen Kane, note how there is depth in the photograph, and distance and spacing between the 3 main elements in the frame:

Another scene from Shanghai, with multiple characters– note how their heads have good separation:


4. Spacing for depth

One of my all-time favorite scenes from Citizen Kane, note the depth in the photograph, as well as the spacing between the characters:


5. Spacing with reflections

The film noir movie: ‘The lady from shanghai’ also gives us phenomenal examples. The spacing here blows my mind:

Conclusion

With spacing, you want to let your subjects have breathing room.

The biggest spacing tip is this: don’t overlap your figures.

If your subject is dark, give them white space around their head.

If your subject is white, give them dark space around their head.

To better understand spacing, I also recommend looking the photos of Alex Webb and Constantine Manos, who allow good spacing between their subjects.


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