Negative Space

7 Building Blocks of Photography 2

Using negative space in photography is something which I know many photographers find confusing. What is negative space? Where is negative space? And the most common question - When should I use it?

Negative space in photography refers to an empty area around the main subject of an image which emphasises that subject - despite making it smaller in the overall framing or composition of the image.

This seems to be a contradiction. Why would making the subject of an image smaller cause it to stand out more? I expect there all kinds of essays on the theory of negative space when composing a picture but all I know is it works and is perfect for brings a senses of peace and tranquillity to an image.

Now you can't use it all the time because there are circumstances where there isn't any negative space available. If you're in a forest or crowded city street you're not likely to find much if any space - negative or otherwise. Chances are if you make the subject small in the frame in these circumstances your photo will just be too busy and no one will know where to look or what the composition is all about.

As for when to use negative space, this is a creative call for you as the photographer. There is no right or wrong - just waht works to achieve what you want to achieve verses what doesn't. To find this for yourself it takes practise so don't be afraid to try things and if it doesn't look how you wanted, analyse the image and ask yourself why? Then try again somewhere else.

Negative space can be virtually empty as with leaves against a blue sky. Or you can use something with a graphic shape which is the opposite of your subject - like the wedding couple above. They are soft, human and have a natural shape but the negative space above them is hard, man made and has regularity to it.

Be careful when you compose this kind of image and make sure the graphic part of the image fits the frame uniformly. If your uprights are wonky or the spaces either side are not even it'll look messy so take your time.

Products in this Category

arrow Scene in a scene
3 Landscape Tips

vietnam-txt-streamLandscape photography is one of those areas where patience, thinking it through and taking your time pays dividends.  We have all seen a scene we want to capture but sadly we’re in a hurry, so we leap out the car and just grab a shot without giving it too much thought.

This may or may not result in a great shot. But have you thought to ask yourself if there’s more to be had from a location than the obvious? You have to build upon an initial idea. Explore possibilities.

I was in Vietnam driving through the mountains when we came upon this amazing view of rice terraces. We stopped so the film crew could shoot some aerial shots with their drone so Simon and I took the opportunity to look around and shoot this video.

As we drove up the hill I’d noticed one of the little paths that wind their way through the paddies so we went for a walk to see what it would yield.

Almost straight away we came upon some greenery we could use as foreground, which can frame a scene and give it more depth. In some cases just finding a bit of foreground can make or break an image.

But don’t forget to look around you. It’s all to easy to miss a beautiful detail of the landscape that’s right next to you because you’re absorbed by what’s in front.

You have to concentrate and really look at a scene. In the first shot of the last scenario there’s a stick poking up on the left. I didn’t really notice it to begin with. It wasn’t until I checked the shot in the LCD it became apparent.

So how do we remove it? Well obviously there’s Photoshop but I’m lazy. A few steps to the side will change the geometry of the image. It makes things align differently so you can lose unwanted clutter from the composition.

So besides making sure the light is appropriate for the scene, here are 3 landscape photography tips to consider.

  1. Take time – think of other possibilities for the location
  2. Find some foreground. It could make a world of difference
  3. Look to the side as well as in front. You might have missed something

These things are not functions of your camera. They are functions of you thinking like a photographer.


3 Landscape Tips

View all Videos