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Provide an escape route


Leave space in front of a moving subject


This little sledder has nowhere to go in the picture
This little sledder has nowhere to go in the picture

A moving subject placed near the edge of a frame should generally be moving into the picture. This means you should leave space in front of a moving subject.

Human nature doesn't like it when someone or something is boxed in. It can be visually unsettling, and generates a kind of distaste for the picture, no matter how good the picture is otherwise.

If you provide an escape route, a clear space in front of a moving subject, the eye finds that appealing, or perhaps just comforting. But that feeling, whatever it is, is often enough to differentiate your picture from those photographs that don't make the grade because they left no space for the subject to "enter."

This tip doesn't just apply to moving objects; it also applies to static subjects that look like they need space in front of them. Portrait subjects should even have a space to look into if they are not looking at the camera. A picture that has the tip of a person's nose touching the side of the frame looks improper and needs a small space to correct it. (Click here for more tips on placement of your portrait subjects.)

SHOW THE MOVING SUBJECT'S DESTINATION

Not only is it important to provide space in your picture for an "escape route," but - unless risk or danger are what you are attempting to convey - a destination should also be shown where the subject appears to be in need of one.

Think of a person jumping on a trampoline, for example. If you photograph that person high in the air, with no visible trampoline to land on, you have removed the element that provides a degree of "security" for your subject. In this example, not having a destination (a trampoline) will convey a sense of peril, which may give your picture drama that will benefit it.

The picture on the upper right of a young boy jumping off a dock is an example of a picture that shows a destination, the water, albeit a long way down.

Reframing provides the needed escape route
Reframing provides the needed escape route

 This picture has a departure and a destination point
This picture has a departure and a destination point

 The path seems to spill out of the picture and right into the camera. Without a sense of where this tube-slide is going, the viewer may have a slight sense of unease. Fortunately, the bright color indicates the location is a playground.
The path seems to spill out of the picture and right into the camera. Without a sense of where this tube-slide is going, the viewer may have a slight sense of unease. Fortunately, the bright color indicates the location is a playground.

The roller coaster seems to be blocked in by the edge of the picture. Some of the sense of motion is lost.
The roller coaster seems to be blocked in by the edge of the picture. Some of the sense of motion is lost.

Providing an escape route give a better feeling of the ride's movement. The viewer can see it has somewhere to go.
Providing an escape route give a better feeling of the ride's movement. The viewer can see it has somewhere to go.

 
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Panning