I’m a big fan of using negative space in my photography. Therefore, I use it a lot as I photograph my young children. It’s a great tool to provide a sense of scale of little people in a big space. It’s also a perfect way to make your subject stand out as there are no other distractions within the frame.
I’m going to share some tips for effectively using negative space in your photography. In the paragraphs to come, I will discuss using a sense of scale, mystery, or simplicity within your images.
What is Negative Space?
Negative space is defined as the area surrounding the subject. For example, the sky, a wall or water. To me, the term negative space suggests that the space should be empty. However, this isn’t always the case! It could be a background and not include a second subject. Also, your negative space images can be enhanced by using a background that has some texture or detail.
In the examples below, both images have a clear subject and negative space. In the first image, my determined son is wrestling on his jumper. For instance, the background is simply a plain wall and, therefore, this brings all the attention to the action.
In the second image, the subject is the children running. The background is the field which adds some texture to the image and provides information on the setting. Additionally, the use of the negative space provides a sense of scale to the image.
Negative space is a great way to show scale in your images. This works especially well when your subject is close to a large structure or in a wide open space to highlight a sense of isolation. In the image below, my son was walking out of a huge barn doorway. Because I captured the whole doorway in the image, it makes him look tiny!
Using negative space is a fun way to play with crops to focus on a little detail. This makes the subject stand out from the background and brings the viewers eyes immediately to the subject. In the image below, I wanted to capture my son crawling, so I cropped in to only include his legs so there is no ambiguity about the story I wanted to tell. The negative space also helped to emphasize his small size.
Patterns, Texture and Colour
Including a solid colour, texture or patterns within your area of negative space can add visual interest to your photos. In the first image below, my daughter was standing by a beautiful, huge, old door in Como, Italy. Stepping back and including the whole door as negative space provides a sense of scale. Additionally, the texture and repeating patters of the door make the background more interesting and will hold a viewers attention for longer. In the second image, my daughter was trying to reach and enormous ladder on the side of an old house in Finland. I loved the colour and the repeating patterns of the wood, so I included plenty of the old house in my negative space.
The use of negative space and focus on one subject within the frame can add mystery to your photos. This leaves a sense of of wonder about what else is going on. In the image below, my daughter and I were walking on a local country road on a really foggy day. This is a spot I would never have photographed before as it not an attractive spot. However, the fog helped to hide the surroundings and the poor visibility makes the photo feel eerie.
You can follow more of Jo’s inspiring work on Instagram!