What is Negative Space?

Negative Space in Photography is the space surrounding the subject.  In most picture, we try to fill the frame.  Therefore, the subject grab most of the attention of the viewer.  In other situation the surrounding space is also part of the story.  However, getting your picture in front of the Eiffel Tower is not taking advantage of negative space though.  Negative space is space without much interest.  As such, the creative use of negative space can help the subject be more intense or more interesting.

Why use Photography Negative Space?

When I came to the Garden of Eden Arboretum on Maui Island, I was not really planning to create a composition leveraging negative space.  From one of the pathway surrounding the garden I came across this view of a waterfall filling in a lovely pond in the middle of the Maui forest.  The pond was far away and down below which created an usual view for a waterfall.

Firstly, using a Tripod and a slow shutter speed of 0,3 second I took a first picture making sure the waterfall was filling the pond on one of the third lines. Then, I zoomed in at 82mm on my 24-105mm zoom lens. As such, the pond is mostly centered on the picture with the bright white waterfall on one third.  A good choice don’t you think?

Subject is filling the frame with the waterfall on one third

Subject is filling the frame with the waterfall on one third

Looking at the resulting picture on my LCD I am disappointed with the end result.  I feel that the landscape in front of me is more appealing.  Did you ever had this feeling when looking back at a picture you have just taken?  In this case, the fact that the oasis is lost in the middle of the jungle make the pond more valuable.

How about using Negative Space in your Pictures?

Using the wide end of the zoom lens I recomposed the picture to have the pond on the intersection of third lines.  By isolating further the pond and the waterfall in the middle of the jungle, this oasis of blue water is gaining much importance.  Both pictures are very nice.  The use of negative space create additional value though.

Efficient use of Negative Space in Photography

Efficient use of Negative Space in Photography

This is a perfect scenario for Negative Space.  Negative space is often used to put the subject off-center.  The negative space is usually just empty space.  This particular scenario do qualify as negative space though.  The jungle is devoid of real interest and accentuate the value of the pond.

This is only one example of negative space composition and you can certainly think about other situation where negative space can create an additional interest.

Examples of Negative Space in Photography

So back to you, did you ever had the feeling that your subject, although being well seen in your picture was missing some appeal?  It might be time for you to test Negative Space on your next shot.

Do you have some examples of yours of Negative Space to show?

Please help other photographers by posting example of Photography Negative Space in picture you took in the comments space.  Better yet, go out and shoot practicing Photography Negative Space! Tell us what you think about the intentional use of Photography Negative Space.

Denis Grenier