Negative space composition photography techniques

Photography is an art of subtraction. The more you want to express, the harder it is to express. De complexity and simplification is a good way. We can use negative space skills to create.

The picture content of negative space composition is not much, which does not mean they lack overall beauty. Negative space often increases more imagination and makes your photos more atmosphere.

1. What is a negative space composition?

What’s the negative space? To put it simply, negative space is the space between objects, namely the white space we are used to saying. Negative space is usually a technique to show isolation in photography.

Negative space is usually composed of a single tone of the background, with a single tone to set off the solid object.

A monochromatic background can be fog, sky, water, grassland, earth, or other scenery.

winter scenery

2. The role of negative space composition

In photography practice, when we find an interesting subject, we should use various composition methods to highlight the subject. Proper use of negative space will bring more artistic effects. Let’s look at the three main functions of negative space.

(1) Express the theme

When there are too many elements in the actual scene, it is an effective way to express the theme by cutting out the frame to create negative space.

(2) Strengthen the main body

As the background is very clean, the attention of the audience is naturally very focused on the subject. Proper use of negative space can enhance photographs.

(3) It helps to create the artistic conception of the picture.

The operation of the blank and the real in the photographic picture can arouse the rich association of the audience, and the blank can be used to create artistic conception.


3. Negative space composition skills

When used properly, the white space you leave in your photos can make your photos more interesting and easier to focus on, rather than trying to fill every inch of the frame with interest. Negative space can play several important compositional roles, so here are some tips to help you think more about how to make the most of what’s not in the scene:

(1) Reinforce what’s important

The obvious role of negative space is to show the viewer what’s important and what’s not important in your shot. If nothing else is competing for focus, their eyes will be able to focus on your main subject without having to search for the rest of the shot first.

(2) Balance your shots

Negative space can make a lens look more balanced, and in general, you need to provide twice as much negative space for the area occupied by your subject. For example, if you’re taking a close-up portrait and your subject fills the right third of the frame, you want the left two-thirds to be negative space.


(3) Give your background

Of course, sometimes, such as when shooting an ambient portrait, you want to take advantage of the size of the location, but the above rules do not apply.

With ambient portraits, it’s usually the things around the subject that make the shot more interesting, so filling the frame with the subject means losing context.

(4) Theme space

If you place your subjects on one side of the frame, make sure they are looking towards the negative space area. Often, the same is true for action shots as they run through the frame, and if they have room to move, your shots will be more pleasing in composition. Of course, if you want them to add a sense of speed, or want people to wonder what they’re looking at, but negative space behind them and almost push them out of the frame.

(5) Negative space is not necessarily “empty”

By using a color in the background when shooting indoors, or defocusing it when shooting outdoors, it does not become the focus of the viewer, so all attention is focused on your main subject. However, sometimes adding blur to your background will make your shot less impactable.

natural scenery

(6) Exaggerating negative space

Remove all colors from your shots, leaving only the shapes and spaces around them to tell your story. You can also remove all textures from a shot by shooting a silhouette.

4. Negative space is the foundation of abstract art

Abstractionism and surrealism are impossible without contrast, and the effect of this genre can only be realized with the help of unexpected and bold combinations. Photographers usually achieve this style through all the other steps: landscapes, portraits, weddings, and studio shots.

Some are looking for something fundamentally new in photography and art, where fantasy alone is not enough to create surreal photos, but an intuitive understanding of color combinations, artistic effects, lighting, and camera settings.

Negative space and its combination with the center of the picture, together with bizarre light and shadow, details, and unrealistic artistic effects, are the basis for high-quality professional images in an abstract art style.


All negative space photography is mainly embodied in the shooting rules to express photo creativity in art photography, cultivate photographic vision, and add a bit of personality to each image.

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