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Negative Space Photography

In digital photography you’re dealing with aperture, shutter speed, lighting and focus every moment. It’s a lot to manoeuvre. And one thing you are also working with quite precisely, whether you are aware of it or not, is ‘space.’ Lets have a look at what this means for you to enhance and develop your skills as a photographer.

Negative space is defined as… “the space around the subject of an image”. It means the empty space around your main subject. This kind of space seems like unimportant background but it’s this empty space that adds an important aspect to the composition of the main subject.

Positive space on the other hand is defined as … “the focal point of a work of art or shape of the work of art”. The primary subject matter in a work of art, as opposed to the background or unoccupied spaces. Okay so those are the technical definitions. So how do we apply this practically? To start with, negative space is a huge element in your composition. Your negative space is the space around your focal point and having too much or too little can completely ruin a potentially good digital photo.
When shooting your digital photography, always look at how much space is around your focal subject. Even the slightest bit too much or too little can completely put your composition out of kilter. Particularly when your subject has a distinct point of focus such as a person’s eyes, defining lines coming to a point or even an aspect of sharp colour.
Let’s examine these two photos to show you what I mean.

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Photo by Manu M

This picture has a lot of really interesting negative space around it. For starters the negative space is blue, which is quite different to our main focal subject. The dobs of white, which are the colours, seem to glide nicely into the main subject without distraction or hesitation. The clouds do distract our eyes from the branches momentarily but not in an inconvenient way at all.  The negative space in this picture works very well to support the positive space.
Look at the picture now without the support of the right amount of negative space. I’ve edited out some of the space of the picture to see what effect we get.

composition in photography, composition photographs, composition photography, creative photography, digital photography composition, negatives spaces photography, of composition in photography, of composition photography, photography composition rules, photography composition techniques, positive spaces photography, rules of composition photograph

Photo by Manu M

The focal point changes due to a 3cm crop from the right. Removal of the negative space changes everything. Now, the end of the tree trunk is the main focal point. Our eyes don’t follow the branches outward as much as they did before. This change does not make the picture drastically worse, it is actually ok. But you see how this negative space alteration changes a lot about the picture artistically?

Pay close attention to what you are taking and the negative space around your main subject. Changing the slightest thing can improve or reduce the quality of your photos.

Have you used this technique before? I would love to hear what you think about it. Put your comments in the comments box below and tell me what you think!

About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time. DigitalPhotographySuccess.com

Comments (2)

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  1. Babette says:

    This is my first time I have visited this site. I found a lot of interesting stuff in your blog. From the volume of comments on your posts, I guess I am not the only one! keep up the impressive work.

  2. Laks says:

    Very interesting and enlightening points which beginners will never know unless taught by some experts like you.

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