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What is negative space? And why on earth would I want it?

Fat Mum Slim /


If you’re playing along with the June photo a day challenge you may have noticed that one of the prompts is negative space. If you’re not playing along, you might like to read on anyway… as negative space is a cool trick to have up your sleeve when taking photos anyway.

A few people have asked me what negative space is, and I found myself in a funny conversation on Facebook where two people thought it was similar to the naughty corner, and that they’d just send their kids there and take a photo. I had a giggle. Of course, as with any of the prompts, you can interpret it as you please and a naughty corner would be quite apt. Below is the negative space that I had in mind when creating the list though:

Negative space is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition.

So take a look at the top photo. See how the top two-thirds of the photo are filled with negative space {pretty much nothingness} and the bottom third has the subject matter? The subject matter is firstly the person with the umbrella and then the waves? The negative space draws your eyes quickly down to the man first, doesn’t it? That’s the beauty of negative space. It doesn’t distract you, instead cleverly highlighting what you want to show off in your photo.

Confused? Let me show you a few more examples from photos shared on Instagram for photo a day.

negative space

Photos by: @paulamikegracie,@mattallison, @kluvswhr + @violettetannenbaum

Each photo has used negative space to show off their subject a little better. The frog photo is on the extreme side, instead of filling the whole frame {photo} with the frog, she’s taken a step back and filled most of the photo with negative space so that our eyes go straight to the frog. Clever, right? You can also check out some more examples here.

So, why would you want to try it?

This technique won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s always fun or at least interesting to try new things. When using your iPhone or phone camera to shoot photos we often have such a small space to work with, so sometimes filling a photo with lots of things can be distracting and take away from the subject matter {on the other hand sometimes it can really work too!} so it’s good to have a play around.

Are you a fan of negative space? Or is it something new for you to play around with?

Top photo credit: VinothChandar via photopin cc