What is negative space photography?
Negative space photography is related to minimalist photography. It emphasises not just the subject, but the empty space around the subject. The viewer’s eyes may be drawn to a central figure, but they can’t help noticing the large section of emptiness that surrounds and defines that figure. The emptiness (whatever form it takes) gives definition and emphasis to the subject. “If the model or the performer is the noun,” says photographer Jimmy Marble, “the negative space is the adjective.”
“It’s minimalism in photographic form,” says photographer Will Milne. “You have your focal point and very few other elements on the page.” That focal point or main subject is the “positive space” and the rest of the frame, be it a blank sky or studio white space, is the negative space.
Regardless of what your focal point or subject is, the space around it needs to be impossible to miss. “You always want the space to steal the show,” says photographer Petecia Le Fawnhawk-Maggiori. A good rule of thumb is that the amount of negative space should take up at least 50% of the photo to achieve the right effect. A landscape photo with a single figure in the distance that gives a sense of scale and loneliness is an example of negative space photography.
The elements of negative space shots.
Negative space photos are all about the interplay between the subject and their surroundings. “I try to view all of my photos from a design standpoint,” says Marble. “You have a box, which is your frame and it’s about arranging it.” In that frame, the subjects generally take up less than half of the frame, with the majority of what’s left given over to negative space.
Negative space photographers still use rules of photographic composition like the rule of thirds, but the style lends itself to a unique approach to these guidelines. “Try to find creative ways to find your thirds,” says Marble. “I really like having things in the extreme foreground and extreme background.”