Negative Space in Photography


Negative space in photography is one of those undesired features that purist photographers often decide to keep their distance from. But it is one of the most fantastic ways of composing a photograph due to its interesting nature of its composition.

What is Negative Space in Photography?

Negative Space is the huge presence of low impact elements, which are usually neutral empty spaces or textures. Often the center of interest contrasts sharply with those surrounding negative space areas in terms of subject matter, colour, shape, tone or texture.

Negative space, to actually become something interesting, it needs to be contrasted with an interesting subject or element. By achieving this contrast, some sort of visual balance is achieved, hence the beauty of the correct use of negative space.

Before learning about negative space, I pretty much avoided it, but after watching a couple of beautiful examples, I began to rethink about the images I was making.

The Use of Negative Space in Photography

Photo by Federico Alegría

The picture from above is my favourite image from my own work composed with a huge level of negative space, and for me, it works because even when there is so much space, the man walking by the shore is still getting the viewer's attention.

Negative space is not just a blank space, but a section of the frame that due to the presence of a smaller element, it becomes interesting. Negative space is just a name that emptiness has received, and it has nothing to do with a negative value or whatsoever.

Negative space could be:

For negative space to actually work you need to achieve a frame that gets balanced not by a big element but a tiny yet strong element in the frame, juxtaposed to the huge emptiness of the negative space. That is the essence and the magic of an image composed with important deals of negative space.

Photo by Sunisa Misa on Unsplash

One way of making an image more interesting is by cropping it out, leaving just the essential elements for the composition to work.

Examples of Negative Space in Photography

Photo by Tom Fisk 

Photo by Matthew Henry
Photo by Engin Akyurt 

Negative space is just a small topic inside the whole universe of composition, if you are just beginning in photography and you don't know exactly where to start, well let me tell you a very good new, you need to start with composition, since it is one of the most valuable attributes any photograph should have in order to be meaningful.

If you are interested in learning more about composition, then perhaps you should take a look at this guide. Mastering composition requires practice indeed, so why not starting today folks?

About Author

Federico has a decade of experience in documentary photography, and is a University Professor in photography and research methodology. He's a scientist studying the social uses of photography in contemporary culture who writes about photography and develops documentary projects. Other activities Federico is involved in photography are curation, critique, education, mentoring, outreach and reviews. Get to know him better here.

I’m a fan of negative space! It makes so much sense to me. But most people don’t understand it and consider it a composition mistake. I love it, and I’ll still use it while shooting.

How can I view and not read an article on Negative Space when I use it ever so often in my Photographs.

You explained it pretty nicely with wonderful Photography Examples.

Some of the Photos are just stunning esp the Minimalist Ones.

This is the 2nd post from your blog I am exploring.

I really like the Site Layout and front-end.

Well done.

Good luck and Greetings from India.

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