The Positive Impact of Negative Space in Photography

When we take photos, we usually focus our attention on the subject and make sure it stands out in the shot. In our efforts to do so, we might place less importance to the empty areas in the frame. Negative space, or the areas not being occupied by the subject and other objects, can actually be successfully used to strengthen the visual effect of an image. Here are the various ways in which negative space can spice up your shot:

1. Provides balance – no matter what kind of shot you take, whether it is a wide-angle photo of a vast landscape or a macro shot of a tiny bug, you can use negative space to give balance to the composition. Positive space, that which the subject occupies in shape and form, might appear overwhelming if there is no empty space included in the image frame. The viewer would not know where to look and rest his eyes. You can make use of the Rule of Thirds by placing the subject on one-third of the frame and leaving empty space for the other two-thirds.


Photo by Kharied

2. Accentuates the subject – if a subject is surrounded by empty space, the viewer has hardly anywhere else to look but at the point of interest. The viewer can fully appreciate the subject without any distractions such as a cluttered background. With the proper use of negative space, the subject is isolated and placed in intense focus. Even the simplest and most ordinary objects can be fascinating when composed in this manner.


Photo by Lightstaff

3. Helps create atmosphere– negative spaces can effectively add to the mood of the image and can also evoke emotions. For instance, an image that shows a large portion of empty sky can exude tranquility. Even a simple black empty space can add a dramatic effect to the subject.


Photo by DARRIN J. OAKLEY

4. Allows the image to ‘breathe’ – when composing the subject in the shot, add negative space to give the subject room to be properly appreciated.  The subject will not seem cramped or crowded and the use of empty space will make it more visually appealing.


Photo by Caro Spark

5. Creates interesting shapes and patterns – objects in the photo create shapes and forms, but negative space can also create shapes that can be as attractive as the main point of focus. One of the most popular images that depict negative space shows two black silhouetted profiles facing each other. The white negative space created between these faces may appear to be shaped as a candlestick. The human brain always tries to create patterns in what the eyes see, and negative spaces in a photo can be used deliberately to show various shapes that add visual effect. Photos taken in the minimalist style utilize negative space to the extreme, and this is can create striking shots that appear almost abstract.


Photo by Lightstaff

Whenever you compose a shot, be constantly aware of negative space and not just the subject. Experiment with subject placement and notice how the empty areas in the frame can highlight the subject while creating an atmosphere that draws in the eyes of the viewer. Negative space is a powerful tool in composition which can transform an ordinary snapshot into a captivating and eye-catching image.

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