Today I was out shooting my sons bike race, there wasn’t all that much time to compose the shoots. Some of the photos looked ok, others was missing something. I came to think of a quote of Monna Dithmer “You don’t just move into or inhabit a space, you create it“. What
is it with space, a whole lot of nothing that, with all its emptiness is so important? For instance “Lead Room” also referred to as leading space, nose room, or leading space, is the space in front of an object. It gives the viewers a sense of distance or direction to where the object is facing. For example, guy moving on his bike, with nose room it will indicate that he is in motion to a certain direction. Otherwise, the photo would just be of a stationary situation.
This photo of my son, aims to illustrate that a shift of composition will hint the viewer that he is moving in a specific direction. In the right version of the photo the subjects appear have nowhere to go!
Rules in Nose Room
Usually I don’t measure out any specific measurement or distance between the object and camera frame, for me there is no strict rule. What I do is simply choose what feels right. Others prefer 1/3 of the room allocated behind the object and 2/3 in front of the object. I will argue that that depends on the angle to your subject. What is important is that the leading room is where the object is facing. If the subject is facing towards the right frame, then the nose room should be on the right. The faster your motive is moving, the more space is needed on that specific side.
Where nose room operated with horizontal space, is head room related to vertical room. In real life, we tend to judge height in relationship to ourselves. People are taller or shorter than we are. We see strength within big people and weakness at small people. This perception translate directly to photography, the association of height with strength dominates our perception of people in pictures.
So if I want to manipulate my son to come over stronger, all I have to do is change the cropping slightly. A smaller space between his head and the frame will make him appear stronger. I guess this information is great for people taking portraits of short male leaders, who possibly would enjoy coming over stronger, even when they are not.
Getting the right balance is important to avoid ending up with a photo that has lots of space above the subject, or one where they appear “squashed” up to the top of the image – both of which can be highly distracting. If you are doing portraits then support yourself on rule of thirds, and place your subject’s eyes on the upper line.
Rules in head Room
The less head room between the person and the frame, the greater the strength.
Tearing it apart
The one thing to always remember is that these are guidelines, and, as such, they should not get in the way or your creativity