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.