Negative space is the ’emptiness’ between an object and another or the ‘edge’ of the image. Negative space is a standard in the art world (think Cy Twombly or Mark Rothko) but has become an increasingly popular trend in many elements of design (the white space in web pages, simpler logos) as well as photography. I think in particular for photography the use of negative space is a simple tool to highlight something specific: perhaps the simplicity or beauty of an object.
Negative space also allows space for the viewer to come in and wonder around and feel the emotions that you (as the photographer/artist) are trying to communicate – loneliness, calmness, peace.
But I think I have a new appreciation for the idea after reading this piece by David Duchemin for Artifact Uprising. Ponder these words:
there is only so much impact a frame can contain; the more the included elements compete for that impact, the less impact any one part of the frame can have. That is to say, the photograph is stronger for the photographer’s ability to say no.
Obviously that doesn’t mean all images should fully embrace the concept of negative space but perhaps concentrating on the subject and what is important can help bring the value of what is created through negative space with your more ‘inclusive pictures’.
Let’s look at some examples.
One of the easiest subjects to capture with the minimalist effect of negative space are landscapes. It really highlights the lines of the landscape or highlights a feature. Think of the ‘postcard’ images of Tuscany with rolling hills and a tree or farmhouse on a hill somewhere. As the viewer of such an image, I am also left feeling the grandeur or awe of a place when you think of the amount of space you would take up in that image.
Use of negative space in interiors and styled shots really helps the graphic elements to stand out.
Again, in portraiture the negative space really acts as a way to frame and highlight the person (or people) you are photographing.
Max Wanger is one photographer in particular who uses negative space in a really beautiful and effective way to simplify his images and highlight the subject. Creating plenty of room for emotion.
What do you think of negative space? Do you use it often? Share some examples in the comments if you like.
I took this photo yesterday while in Rovinj, Croatia. It seemed to me to be almost surrealist, like a Dali painting. The cloud makes it but the repetition of the stairs, the separation from the background, the lines, the colours.
What do you think?
Also I think I may be getting my photo mojo back. It just requires getting out and taking some pictures in a beautiful place with the sun shining, sometimes.
Well still not 12 pictures (it is really hard in winter, am I right?), but a little look into my day all the same. Mostly quiet with a little bit of reflection going on, a little bit of learning of Italian, and a little wander around town and some Christmassy-ness, including a gathering of musical Santas.
Plus two of my new favourite foods. Persimmon and a lazy type of cottage pie with a mixture of lentil ragu and a cauliflower/sweet potato mash. I literally boil a large head of cauliflower and a sweet potato and blend them up.
As a last minute Emma and I decided to send some snail mail to our favourite #1day12pics of the year. I’ll be in touch once we have been through the images.
Okay so it took me a while to get to the next ‘lesson’ but better late than never, right?
In the last lesson I noted
“composition helps us to highlight our subject. When rules aren’t followed the subject might have to compete for attention with other items in the frame therefore diminishing the ‘quality’ of your picture. Obviously rules are also meant to be broken but knowing the rules means you can be intentional about breaking them.”
This time around I am looking at framing. Framing is simply using something to ‘frame’ your subject and therefore draw the eye to them. This idea started long before photography in paintings where the subject(s) are often placed in windows, door frames or arches.
Lets look at some photographs as examples…
There are so many opportunities for framing: windows, doorways, tunnels. But it doesn’t stop there.
Also look for frames that are a little different. Go for something a bit subtle. Or go for a more unusual shape. Use people and anything that is around you. (Necklace by Lotts and Lots).
Sometimes you can even use a frame! (styling by Charlotte Love)
Framing your object obviously doesn’t happen every time you take a picture. However, if there is a frame opportunity happening make sure you make the most of it. The photo above could have been better if I had shifted so that both subjects sat in the doorway.
What do you think?
Do you use framing? Share an image where you have used framing in an interesting way.