10 Best Negative Space Photography Ideas

Negative space photography is one of the most striking and impactful forms of photography. This style of photography often involves contrast and minimalism while drawing focus to the primary subject of the image. 

Negative Space Photography

While negative space photography might seem simple on the surface, there are a lot of factors to consider. 

Here are our 10 best negative space photography ideas, including inspiration and tips to capture the perfect photographs using negative space! 

1. Know Which Elements Constitute Negative Space 

A lot of photographers who aren’t used to making negative space a focal point of their images work on the assumption that negative space just means ‘empty space’. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Negative space can be basically any element that tends to fade into the background and not draw attention in the presence of another subject. So, that could be sky, water, sand, a wall, or a surface of any kind, as long as it’s blank. 

Get creative with the kinds of elements you use as negative space to add variety to your portfolio!

2. Balance Positive And Negative Space 

We’ve explained what negative space can be in an image, but it’s also important to understand the concept of positive space. 

Positive space in a photograph is basically anything that contrasts with or compliments negative space. So, this could be mountains, birds, or buildings against the sky. It could also be a person, or the face of a person. 

If you were to have a photograph consisting entirely of negative space, this would literally just be a block of a single color. That’s not very interesting to look at.

You could take a picture involving negative space made up of different elements, but this still wouldn’t be especially visually stimulating. 

In order to create an interesting image, you should aim for a balance of positive and negative space. There are a few different ways you can do this. The Rule of Thirds, for example, involves dividing your frame into thirds in terms of positive and negative space. 

However, you can also divide the frame 50/50, or in any way you feel would be impactful.

3. Less Is More…

Generally speaking, when you want the balance of positive and negative space in your photography to make an impact, less is more. 

If you clutter your frame with a lot of different elements of positive space, the negative space won’t be impactful, and might not really be noticeable. 

When you research the best negative space photography images, you’ll see that most of them are fairly minimalistic. That’s because minimalist photographs including negative space draw more attention to the subject. 

4. … But You Can Include Multiple Subjects

Although you definitely want to avoid filling your frame with so much positive space that it completely outweighs the negative space, you shouldn’t be afraid of including more than one subject per image. 

The key here is framing and balance, as we’ve discussed earlier. As long as your positive subjects (elements of positive space) don’t outshadow the negative space in a way that reduces its impact or usefulness in the frame, it’s absolutely fine to include more than one.

5. Try Not To Force Negative Space…

Because the best negative space photography feels authentic, it’s best not to force negative space. 

That means not trying too hard to make negative (and positive) space fit into your frame in the exact place you want.

Often, doing this will involve distorting elements of the picture with unnatural angles, and this will make your image feel less powerful, even if your goal in doing it was to increase the impact.

6. …But Use Selective Framing If Necessary

With that being said, there will be times when using selective framing is the best way to capture positive and negative space in the most impactful ratio. 

Selective framing may involve zooming an image in or out to capture more or less of what is in front of you. It might also mean deciding what to focus on in your image. 

For example, if you have several elements that could be considered negative or positive space in your frame, you’ll need to choose the most important one to focus on. 

7. Find The Emotion In Negative Space

As we discussed earlier, negative space is not just empty space. Like anything else in a photograph, it should be there for a reason, and if you want your image to make an impact, that reason should be to provoke emotion.

How can negative space create emotion? Well, that depends on what the element of negative space is, and what your goal is with your image as a whole. 

For example, a lare stretch of sky doesn’t have to convey emptiness (although, it could, especially if the sky is gray and dreary). It could also be awe-inspiring, or it could produce feelings of peace and tranquility. 

Similarly, a dull-looking wall could be in your photograph to symbolize the mundane (ideally, in contrast with an element of positive space to convey the opposite). 

Really think about what negative space means and what feelings it evokes before you press the shutter. 

8. Work With Depth Of Field 

We’ve already mentioned how using negative space in photography involves selective framing, and that will include choosing what to focus on and what to leave in the background. 

However, there’s another step to this. In focusing on something, you’ll need to decide on the depth of field, meaning how blurry the background is going to be. 

In some cases, making the negative space (or even the positive space) very blurry can help to highlight what you’re focusing on and might even add more emotional depth to your negative space.

Other times, though, too much blurring can take away from what you’re trying to communicate in your image, so be wary of this. 

9. Focus On Conveying Scale

Scale is an important factor in working with negative space in photography. One of the most impactful ways in which negative space is used is in showing a vast expanse of ‘empty’ space, making the positive space in the image feel smaller. 

For example, if you have a photograph of a person standing in front of a wide, starry sky, and appearing very small by comparison, this is likely to provoke more emotion than if the person fills a large portion of the frame. This is because it inspires thought about the significance of our place in the universe.

10. Incorporate Movement

Many elements that can be considered negative space in photography are stationary. This means that one way to make these images more interesting is to incorporate movement. 

If your negative space consists of stationary objects like buildings or walls, consider getting something in the frame that moves, such as a tree moving in the wind, or a person walking through the frame.

Whether you want to turn up your shutter speed or keep it low to emphasize the movement is up to you. 

Final Thoughts 

Contrary to popular belief, negative space in a photograph doesn’t have to seem boring or empty. In fact, when combined with positive space, negative space can add emotion and depth to an image. Try out some negative space shots today and see for yourself!

Laura McNeill
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