Today I would like to introduce you to something really important. It’s a term used in art and painting but for the purposes of artistic education I’m going to borrow it to teach you something important. Have you ever heard of negative and positive space? If you haven’t you’ll love this article. It will help you three fold in your photography.
In digital photography you’re dealing with aperture, shutter speed, lighting and focus every moment. It’s a lot to manoeuvre. And one thing you are also working with quite precisely, whether you are away of it or not, is ‘space.’ Lets have a look at what this means for you to enhance and develop your skills as a photographer.
Negative space is defined as…”the space around the subject of an image.”
It means the empty space around your main subject. This kind of space seems like unimportant background space but it’s this empty space adds an important aspect to the composition.
<!–[endif]–>Positive space is defined as the focal point of a work of art or shape of the work of art. The primary subject matter in a work of art, as opposed to the background or unoccupied spaces.
Okay so those are the technical definitions. So how do we apply this practically?
To start with, negative space is a huge element in your composition. Your negative space is the space around your focal point and having too much or too little can completely ruin a potentially good digital photograph.
So to improve your photography always look at how much space is around your focal subject. Even the slightest bit too much or too little can completely put your composition out of kilter. Particularly when your subject has a distinct point of focus such as a persons eyes or defining lines coming to a point or even an aspect of sharp colour.
Let’s examine these two photos to show you what I mean.
This picture has a lot of really interesting negative space around it. For starters the negative space is blue, which is quite different to our main focal subject. The dobs of white, which are the colours, seem to glide nicely into the main subject without distraction or hesitation. The clouds do distract our eyes from the branches momentarily but not in an inconvenient way at all. The negative space in this picture works very well to support the positive space.
Look at the picture now without the support of the right amount of negative space. Let’s edit some of this space out of the picture and see what effect we get.
The focal point changes due to a 3cm crop from the right. Removal of the negative space changes everything. Now, the end of the tree trunk is the main focal point. Our eyes don’t follow the branches outward as much as they did before. This change does not make the picture drastically worse, it’s actually ok. But you see how this negative space alteration changes a lot about the picture artistically?
If you have been taking photos with your digital camera and everything is right technically but you feel something is missing, then it could well be your composition. Pay close attention to what you are taking and the negative space around your main subject. Changing the slightest thing can improve or reduce the quality of your photos.
Photo copyright by Manu M