Words are a tricky thing. Sometimes they can give us the impression that a thing is good or bad, when in actuality just the opposite is true. Ever noticed that? The concept of “negative space” in photography just happens to a perfect example. Used creatively, you can use negative space to compose an amazing photo. Let me explain….
“Negative space” is the area between and around the main subject in a photo. The object in the photo is considered “positive space”. The use of negative space as a compositional tool works when there is one main subject and little else in the frame. An image of multiple objects distracts the viewer from the main point of the image. Negative space can be used to draw attention to the positive space, or the subject of the image. It works beautifully when used correctly and can dramatically improve the look and feel of your photos.
The photo above was shot on a downtown street near an open common area. There were a few nicely planted grasses, but alone they were nothing to write home about. However when I turned around to lock my car, I noticed the red bricks on the side of the building. The color was a perfect compliment for the grass shoots. After a bit of repositioning myself (I had my 50mm lens), I nailed the image above. I kind of like it – do you?
Using negative space helps you explore the principle that less is more. As a zen photographer, I am particularly drawn to this idea. If you feel the urge to fill every inch of the frame, the practice of using negative space can help you break that habit and explore other compositions. This next photo was taken in my garden. I was out shooting in the morning light while the sun was still low in the sky. An aperture of f/3.5 blurred the trees in the background and captured lovely spheres of light on the left side of the frame.
In this next shot, I changed my perspective by standing above the flower. Shooting down allowed me to isolate a couple of the flowers from the rest, as well as, to use the dark soil as a backdrop to bring out the rich, yellow flower blooms. Explore different angles and positions to utilize negative space that create images with emotive components.
Grab your camera and go practice creating images using negative space. Remember, what appears negative may actually be something really awesome!
Peace and zen,