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Photography Tip: Negative Space

If you have any experience in the field of art, you might be familiar with the term negative space. Negative space is the "empty" part of the photo surrounding the subject (the positive space).

When taking snapshots, most people simply have their subject in the middle of the frame. This is one way to focus on the subject. But why not increase the negative space to actually draw the eye to the subject even more?

In this picture, I gave the soft sea and sky

plenty of the frame so that the eye turns to the people:

If your scene looks cluttered, see if you can find more negative space. Here are some tips to try:

Shoot from above or below.

If you lower the camera, will there be sky or a wall behind your subject instead of distractions? Compare:

Instead of this:

Try this:

Or, try shooting straight down—

Like this:

Or this:

Try playing with the exposure.

By decreasing the exposure here, the background all but disappears. Instead of this:

Try this:

Play with contrast.

Put your subject in front of a dark background or a light background.

You can create a silhouette or near-silhouette:

...or the opposite:

Blur the background.

Even if the background is busy, you create something close to negative space by blurring it out. Try "portrait mode" with your smartphone, or if you have a full-featured camera, use a larger aperture.

Like this:

Here's a bonus photo for discussion. Would you say that this photo employs negative space? Oddly, the empty space here is key to the visual joke. I'd be interested in your thoughts about this photo. I've gotten a lot of strong opinions on it, both negative and positive. Leave a comment or drop me a line with your thoughts on this or the rest of the post!

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