Negative Space

Negative Space


  1. The unoccupied or empty space surrounding the subject of an image.
  2. The areas in a composition that serve as a backdrop, thereby emphasizing the subject and adding balance to the overall composition.
  3. Often used deliberately in photographic composition to create a minimalist, focused, or tranquil effect.


Negative space is a compelling compositional concept in photography that refers to the areas of an image that are not occupied by the primary subject. This ‘space’ acts as a visual breathing room for the subject and plays a significant role in defining the subject itself. By skillfully utilizing negative space, a photographer can create images that are balanced, focused, and free from visual clutter.

How It Works

Elements Considered as Negative Space

Negative space can comprise:

  • Solid colors or subtle gradients
  • Simple textures or patterns
  • The sky or an uncluttered background


  1. Isolate the Subject: Use negative space to isolate the subject and draw attention towards it.
  2. Balance the Composition: A harmonious balance between negative space and the subject can make the image more aesthetically pleasing.
  3. Evoke Emotion: The vast emptiness can evoke feelings of loneliness, tranquility, or focus.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  1. Visual Clarity: Negative space minimizes distractions, making it easier to focus on the subject.
  2. Aesthetic Appeal: When done right, the technique adds to the visual appeal, lending a clean, minimalist look.
  3. Emotional Depth: Negative space can convey a range of emotions, providing a deeper emotional connection to the image.


  1. Risk of Emptiness: Too much negative space can make an image feel empty or incomplete.
  2. Misbalance: Incorrect use can throw off the balance of the composition, making it feel lopsided or awkward.

Best Practices

Compositional Tips

  • Determine the focus of your image and compose the shot to include a significant amount of empty space around it.
  • Use the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio as a guideline to place the subject and balance negative space.
  • Be mindful of color schemes. A contrasting negative space can either highlight or detract from the subject.

Technical Aspects

  • Use a shallow depth of field to blur the background, emphasizing the subject against the negative space.
  • Pay attention to lighting. Well-lit negative space should not overshadow or conflict with the subject.


Negative space is an essential compositional element that frames the subject within a photograph. It provides visual breathing room, emphasizing the subject and adding a layer of aesthetic and emotional depth. While it offers numerous benefits, such as clarity and balance, improper use can lead to compositional pitfalls like imbalance or emptiness. Therefore, understanding and strategically employing negative space can significantly enhance the quality of photographic compositions.

Sebastian Chase
Sebastian Chase

Sebasitan Chase is a mobile digital photographer who enjoys trying out new mobile technologies, and figuring out how to get them to deliver high-quality images with minimal effort.Join him on his mission to help mobile photographers create incredible images and videos with their new-age digital cameras, no matter the form that they may take.

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