What Is Negative Space? How Do I Use It To Convey Motion In Motorsport Photography

by Jun 6, 2023

Negative space is a photography technique that is often overlooked or misunderstood. However, when it’s used correctly in motorsport photography, it can be used to add impact, drama, and a sense of speed to your images.

Let’s take a look at what negative space is and how you can use it to convey motion in your photographs. Especially when used in combination with other techniques like The Rule Of Thirds or Dutch Tilt.

What Is Negative Space?

In motorsport photography, negative space refers to the empty or unoccupied areas within the frame of an image. It is the space surrounding the main subject or the area that doesn’t contain any significant elements. The area referred to as negative space is intentionally left empty or with as few distractions as possible to enhance the visual impact of the main subject of the image.

Negative space can be used creatively in motorsport photography to draw attention to the main subject as well as emphasise the speed and movement of the vehicles. By incorporating empty spaces around the subject, you can create a sense of isolation and highlight the dynamic action taking place on the track. It can also help to simplify the composition and remove distractions, allowing the viewer to focus more on the subject and the overall atmosphere of the scene.

Additionally, negative space can be utilised to provide a sense of scale and emphasise the atmosphere of the motorsport event. By including a significant amount of empty space, such as a wide expanse of track or sky, you can create a sense of vastness and showcase the magnitude of the race.

Overall, negative space in motorsport photography is a compositional technique that utilises empty areas within the frame to enhance the visual impact, emphasise the subject, and create a sense of balance and harmony in the image.

Why Is Negative Space Important In Motorsport Photography?

How To Use Negative Space In Motorsport Photography

In motorsport, the on-track action can be chaotic and intense; by incorporating negative space in your photographs, you can isolate and highlight the main subject within the image. This use of negative space will add a sense of depth and contrast to an otherwise static image.

Negative space can also be used to convey speed and motion in your photos. When used in combination with a good slow shutter speed panning technique, the negative space around the car (or motorbike) you are capturing will enhance the perception of motion and speed.

Additionally, by leaving empty areas in the direction of the subject’s movement, you create a visual path that showcases the flow and direction of the vehicles. This technique immerses the viewer in the dynamic nature of motorsport.

How To Use Negative Space In Motorsport Photography

The most simple way to incorporate negative space into your motorsport photos is to intentionally leave empty areas around the main subject when composing your shot, ideally with as few distractions in the background as possible. But, to truly master the art form of negative space, you need to think about how the viewer will see the image.

One of the key things you need to be able to do in motorsport photography is to anticipate the movement of the vehicles and position yourself in a way that allows you to capture the subject within the frame while leaving empty space in the direction of their movement. This creates a sense of forward motion and speed, as if the car (or motorbike) is powering through the empty space.

When used in combination with other techniques like Leading Lines, The Rule Of Thirds or even Dutch Tilt, you draw attention to the subject of your photo while giving the overall image space to tell a much larger part of the story.

The main thing you want to remember when using negative space in your photos is that you need to eliminate any distractions that could draw attention away from your subject. Pay attention to the background and look for ways to minimise distractions and create clean, uncluttered negative space. This might involve adjusting your shooting angle, using a shallow depth of field or even a slow shutter speed pan to blur out any potential distractions.

You can also take advantage of atmospheric conditions, such as fog or dust, to introduce negative space that adds drama and depth to your images. These conditions can create a sense of mystery and motion, enhancing the overall impact of your motorsport photographs.

Remember, negative space should complement the subject and contribute to the overall composition and storytelling of your photograph.


Negative space is just one of many tools in a motorsport photographer’s toolkit to enhance the composition of their photos. And when used correctly, the technique will not only emphasise the subject of your photo but also help convey motion and speed. A dynamic that all motorsport photographers must master to bring movement to an otherwise still image.

Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

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