The use of negative space can help make your photography more interesting and add impact to your images rather than distract as the term perhaps implies. Negative space can improve and highlight your subject within the composition of the frame so it’s worth spending some time mastering it. To help you, we have put together our top tips for shooting with negative space. 

1. Highlight what’s important

The main use of negative space is to highlight the primary subject of your image whilst separating it from the other elements within the scene. With only one subject in focus, the viewer’s eye is drawn to and remains on the important areas of the frame without distraction.

Negative space

2. Space to breath

If you place your point of interest (i.e. a person) to one side of your frame it’s important to make sure they’re looking inwards or towards the negative space. This is also true of action shots when your subject is moving through the frame, your shot will be suggestive and dynamic if your subject is moving towards the negative space. 

3. Take it to the limits

Push the limits and over exaggerate the negative space in your images. By making the focus of your image small, you can add an intriguing element to your image where the viewer is forced to search the frame for the focus. This can be used to great effect to ensure that the full frame is appreciated and add the feeling of space and grandeur. 

4. Rule of thirds

Negative space can often make a shot appear more balanced. A general rule is to apply the rule of thirds whereby you will need twice as much negative space to the area taken up by your subject. This works particularly well when shooting close-ups of flowers or details as well as landscape shots like the photo below.

5. Negative space is not empty space

Negative space encourages plenty of empty space but it does not always require a plain background. Use a big expanse of sky, rolling hills fields, or even water. These can all be classed as negative space to create a very moving image. The key to shooting with negative space is to ensure none of the negative areas distracts from your subject and in turn the viewer.

6. Play with apertures

Shooting with shallow apertures to create negative space is often used when shooting macro or close-ups. By shooting with a wide aperture the shallow depth of field helps soften the background into a pleasing blend of negative space whilst at the same time highlighting your subject. This technique can also be used to great effect when shooting portraits and even landscapes.

7. Use a flash

I am not a big flash shooter but they can be used very effectively to convey negative space. By placing your subject close and with the correct framing the flash will highlight the subject leaving the shadows produced to act as the negative space and highlight your point of interest.

8. Find balance

Try to find a good balance between the negative space and your subject. There is no one single rule for this as it will be dictated by each scene. But adding a nice balance such as a colour or texture between subject and empty space produces far more evocative images.

photography filters

9. Shoot Black & White

Shooting or converting images to black and white is a great way to simplify images and the use of negative space. Contrasting scenes with strong whites and deep blacks allow us to use negative space in a very yin and yang type photograph.

Black and white Landscape Photography

10. Have fun with it

Play around with angles and compositions and use negative space to give your images a twist. People like to view the unusual and this is can be achieved with great effect by including well-thought backgrounds as your negative space. Remember, negative space doesn’t necessarily mean empty or boring space.

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This article on pre-visualisation and images are subject to copyright. Words and photos by Jordan Banks (That Wild Idea). Copying or reposting photos or articles elsewhere is strictly forbidden. Please contact us if you would like to use this feature on your website.

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