Negative space is one very direct way to bring all the attention to your subject and that is by making it the center of attention.
Leaving negative or blank space in the photo allows the subject to stand out and stand alone where nothing else is taking away from it. It is a powerful composition technique.
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What is negative space in photography?
Basically it means the space surrounding your main subject. It is an area that has nothing in it that can draw the attention away from your subject.
Using it is a way to bring out and add emphasis to your main subject even though it might the smallest thing in the image.
Notice in the example above there is only a small paper airplane and an arm and hand holding it. This image is captivating because all your attention is directed at that small orange plane. It almost makes you feel like you are a kid again.
Add negative space anywhere in the frame
A fun thing to know about negative space is that you can put it anywhere in the frame. This is nice because it keeps your images creative and interesting.
This composition rule allows you to leave empty space anywhere and put the subject wherever works best. You can add it to the top, bottom, left, or right of the frame, really anywhere.
There are endless opportunities when it comes to negative or blank space.
Here’s a little more on how to use negative space and leading lines: How to use leading lines to create amazing photos
Why would a photographer focus on negative space?
I find pictures using negative space to be more simple, clean & easier on the eyes. I think it offers the eye a pleasing way to scan across the frame.
It also allows the viewer to organize information and identify the most important part without being over stimulated with other “stuff.”
I created Over 100 Photography Tips to Elevate your Photography check it out.
Allows your subject to stand out
When you focus on applying this composition rule you actually are setting up your subject to stand out more which is great when you have an interesting subject.
Notice how in the image above there is negative space on both the right and the left side of the frame. That forces all of the attention to be on the subject, the family in the middle.
Negative space eliminates distractions
Often times you will take a photo and just not really feel like you captured what you were focused on and trying to capture.
Next time try adding some negative space and see how much distraction is removed. It’s amazing to see how your attention will be drawn straight to the subject with less distractions around.
Sometimes just taking a step back and seeing what all you have to work with will allow you to see where you can add in negative space.
Mom photographers best friend
If you are a mom and you are trying to capture a candid shot of your kids playing in your house, This composition rule will be you best friend, trust me.
No need to worry about folding that laundry on the couch, just find a wall to hide it and then you have a beautifully composed imaged using negative space (the wall.) Plus you didn’t even have to clean to get it. That’s a win win in my book.
What is an example of negative space?
You will be surprised how much negative space you can find when you start incorporating this composition rule.
This doesn’t just mean that nothing else is in the frame like that one below. It can be things like water on the beach filling most of the frame. Or you can use walls in a house to help frame and add it in.
The key is to make sure it is not distracting or taking away from the subject in focus. If the blank space you are using is too distracting you won’t really be able to create that dramatic image you were hoping for.
There really is is so much you can do with this composition rule to transform everyday images & make them more powerful. You can be dramatic or subtle with your use of negative space images to produce so many different results.
For example, the image above is a more dramatic use of this composition rule. The majority of this image is completely dark. There were a lot of distractions all around but making only the subjects in the light allowed for a very dramatic and meaningful photo.
This is also a skill you can teach your children! Read more: Photography for Kids
Create negative space using outdoor elements
One easy way to create it is to look around when you are outside. Look up, down, all around. See a cool tree? Get underneath it and use the sky to add negative space like the example below.
You can also use walls or fields. Just look next time you’re out, you’ll see opportunities everywhere!
Negative space is a type of minimalist photography read more: Mastering the Art of Minimalist Photography
Is negative space bad?
It is a very creative way to elevate your photography. It is not your grandparents style of photos though.
Sometimes people might ask you why they aren’t centered or filling the entire frame.
When I shoot for clients I tend to use it in a much more subtle way. When I shoot for myself I am more risky and obvious with it.
Go see how to How to Apply the Popular Rule of Thirds to your Photography
Find a balance
The key is finding a good balance between the bodies of space, to find a pleasing composition and to know when to use it or when not to use it.
As you get familiar with it, you can create negative space with creative cropping but after you study it and get to know this method the more you will begin to see it as you go in camera.
Here’s how to use Photoshop Editing: Creating Negative Space.
Go out and try to see how you can elevate your photography using this composition rule. It will keep your photos interesting and unique.
We’d love to see some of YOUR favorites!
Read more in our photography composition series:
– Creating Depth in Your Image
– 4 Unique Framing Compositions for Creative Photos
–11 Photography Composition Rules to Know to Improve your Photography
I’m just loving this series! Thanks for running it, Courtney!
I never knew it was called negative space. I love it! Now I actually know what it’s called I can explore it properly. I love negative space it’s so dramatic and emotional. I read dayswithmyfather.com the other day and he uses this technique a lot. The result was very powerful.
Thank you for sharing,