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Photography Composition: Negative Space

August 9, 2012

Negative space “is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image” (Wikipedia).  I love how negative space draws more attention to the subject and can create more of a dramatic mood.  I find that photos with a strong use of negative space have the ability to bring out more emotions due to the way that they emphasize the subject.  Photos that use negative space effectively almost always have the subject on one of the thirds, at least not in the dead centre of the photo. If you’re following the rule of thirds you’re likely to have some negative space in your photos.  It’s how you use the negative space that can make all the difference.

Negative space can  help tell the story of your photo.  In the photo below my little guy is looking into the negative space.  This helps the viewer wonder what he’s looking at and create a thoughtful mood to the photo.  In general, the subject should be looking/ walking, etc toward the negative space in your photo.

In the photo below, Calvin is throwing a rock into the negative space of the photo. While the “negative space” isn’t totally true negative space since there is the lake and rocks, it is the space around my subject.  If Calvin was cropped and there was no negative space there would be no story to my photo.

In the above photo Calvin is walking into the negative space as he finishes playing hop scotch.  The fact that he’s toward the upper part of the photo shows a sense of completion in the game he’s playing.  The hop scotch drawing also acts as a leading line, helping lead your eye to the subject.

Negative space can work great in portraits as well.  I love how the above photo just features my little guy. There is no question as to what I’m taking the photo of, he’s the subject.  Before you snap your photo always do a quick check to make sure there are no distracting elements in the background.   It’s so much easier to clean up a little or move a piece of furniture out of the way than photoshopping the distraction out later.  Make sure to try to get your subject off to the side and not right in the middle of the photo.

I still have a lot to learn about negative space however I love using it to compose my photos and draw the eye to my subject.

~Shari (MWAC Coordinator)

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