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A Quick Look at Using Negative Space in Photos

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Negative space in photography, design, sculpture, or any other creative pursuit is equally as important as is positive space in overall composition.

It’s all about finding the right balance.

Simply put, positive space is the actual subject while negative space (also called white space) is the area surrounding the subject.

The latter acts as breathing room for your eyes. Too little negative space results in cluttered and busy photographs with every element in the photo screaming for the viewer’s attention.

In the photo above, part of my London street photography collection, the man standing on the right, the subject, is the positive space whereas the entire orange wall is the negative space, the empty space which helps the subject stand out better.

Allowing for a generous area of negative space can have a very positive effect on the finished work.

It adds definition to your subject and is similar to a visual pause. It reduces the negative impact of a busy composition by acting as a buffer, an area in which the eye can rest.

It can also add to the mystery — it invites the viewer to make up the rest of the story and can greatly affect the emotion, the mood of the photo.

In my photography work, I often seek to create compositions by maximizing the use of negative space, resulting in seemingly more minimal, less cluttered images. Here’s an example from my minimal urban photography series:

This body of work highlights details of architecture around London and is all shot in square format. Reducing everything to the bare minimum, the result is a set of photographs that are easy to absorb and perfect to compliment interiors.

The use of negative space is always on my mind in the street photography I shoot around London. The following photographs are examples:

You could very much call this minimal street photography.

People are still the main focus yet do not make for most of the photo, a visual representation of less being more. The empty space actually does make the subject stand out and the eye is automatically guided there.


About the author: Nicholas Goodden is a professional urban photographer and photography tutor based in London. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Goodden’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. This article was also published here.

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