Negative Space: Photography Composition #2



Street performer holding fire rods, the flames look like fire ghosts. Example of negative space in photography composition. by Bernie Delaney
Fire Ghosts

Negative Space

Yesterday’s blog post about Photography Composition was about filling the frame in order to draw attention to your main subject. The opposite also holds true…You can use negative or empty space to enhance your main subject too. It’s just a different way of approaching your goal. You want your image to be more than just a record. It’s your unique interpretation of the scene, your story to tell.

In Fire Ghosts, above,  I wanted to draw attention to the boy holding the fire rods and  the way the flames looked like ghosts. It was a night shot, so processing it as low-key was relatively easy. I wanted all distractions blanked out so we could focus on the subject, but I wanted space around him too. Some call it space to breathe, but n this case it was more about space to move.


More Examples of Negative Space


Stolen Child

Here, I was trying to convey the emotion contained in the poem, Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats. I used negative space to try to show the loneliness of the woman whose child was stolen by the fairies.



Woman in the centre of a beach. Happy Snappers Judges Choice award at the camera club exhibition 2018

In this image, I wanted to draw attention to the woman carrying a perfectly balanced load in her hands. I tried to keep the beach detail subtle.


A blade of wild grass, sumbolizing Compassion. Photo by Bernie Delaney

This is an outdoor shot of wild grass growing, I rarely do set-up shots of these kinds of subjects. It’s amazing what you can find even in the most ordinary places. You can use negative space, like blurred backgrounds, to highlight your subject. It might take a lot of playing around with your manual settings, but it’s worth it.



An ice drop, hanging in suspence and waiting for spring thaw.

Another shot with a lot of negative space, this time to the left of the central subject. You see, there are no rules, it’s just about getting that feeling across, showing why you took the picture. I liked the coolness, the delicacy, the way the ice reminded me of jewellery.  That’s what I was trying to show in the image.



A row of trees in the snow, illustration for Ten January Targets post by Bernie Delaney

This one has a lot of negative space both above and below the main subject.  My focus was the stark treeline.

Mars and Venus

Here is a different take on the use of negative space. Yes, there are steps between the man and the woman. But I still think it falls into the empty space category. What do you think?



I hope you got something out of this post and that it helps you explore the possibilities of photography as an art form. Developing creativity is what it’s all about.

If you have any queries, feel free to comment below.

You can see many of these images on Flickr.


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