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negative space in photography woman near tree

I have been blogging about different photo subjects for years now, and the interest in “negative space” photos continues to grow. So, what is “Negative Space”?

Negative space refers to areas of a composition that are empty, bland, or otherwise uninteresting. That’s why negative space is also called white space; it’s where nothing is really happening. But, the photograph with negative space seems to be an growing type of photo subject because it creates some mood to the photo with a new interest in the feel of a photo. A lot of “negative space” photos do not go along with the composition rules of photography. Kind of one of those subjects you can break the rules on.

In photography, negative space is often made up of certain elements:

  • Water
  • Sky
  • Walls
  • Sand

Note that all of these elements tend to fade easily into the background, and that’s why they make such great negative space. An empty sky does not draw the eye, any more than a blank white wall, a stretch of empty sand, and so on.

Now, some photos are full of negative space. These compositions are often very abstract, such as a stretch of empty blue sky, or a sand dune stretching off in every direction. Such negative-space-centric compositions can also be minimalistic, with a single eye-catching element surrounded by emptiness.

So let’s take a look at some of the points of NEGATIVE SPACE:

1. Let the scene dictate your negative space and positive space combination

For example, a few years ago, I stood at a popular lookout, observing an iconic rock sitting in the Atlantic Ocean in Eastern Canada. It was early morning and some fog had rolled in, covering most of the impressive structure. The woman standing next to me turned to me and said, “It’s so sad, we’re driving by today, and I wanted to get a photo of the Percé Rock. But due to the fog, it seems it won’t be possible.”

She left, disappointed that she didn’t get her shot. But I stayed, and I stood for a long time, examining the fog and the way it draped the rock like a heavy blanket. I thought it was one of the most amazing things to happen that day. I felt so lucky to be there at that exact moment to capture the wonder unfolding. I embraced the negative space, and I captured a beautiful, minimalistic image.

foggy rock on the water

Bottom line:

Be adaptable. Be flexible. If negative space dominates a scene, let it, even if you generally prefer to avoid minimalistic compositions. Make sense?

2. Use negative space to balance out positive space

A key goal of photographic composition is to achieve visual balance. You want your images to feel whole, complete, satisfying.

And one way to achieve balance is by identifying your positive space, then countering it with negative space.

For instance, look at the image below. You can see the positive space – the clenched fist. It’s a powerful, eye-catching subject, but it’s countered by all the surrounding negative space. It creates an overall balance, as you can see:

negative space raised fist

By the way, it’s important to recognize how lots of negative space can balance out just a little positive space. Positive space is aggressive and powerful. Negative space is much more subdued, even soothing. So unless you’re specifically after a very in-your-face image, positive space should come in small doses.

Some photographers practice a “2:1” negative space rule, where you add two parts negative space for every one part positive space. I don’t like to restrict myself in this way, but it’s a good guideline to bear in mind.

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Minimalistic compositions use negative space to great effect. In fact, they’re all about negative space; they take lots of negative space, include a touch of positive space, and create an eye-catching result.

3. Experiment with minimalism

Here’s an example of a minimalist image, where the shadow acts as positive space, while the bricks provide some empty negative space:

cross on the bricks negative space

If you like the minimalistic look, I highly recommend you try it out. It’s pretty simple to pull off.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Start by identifying a main subject, like a tree, a person, or a building. This will be your positive space.
  2. Adjust your positive, focal length, and camera angle until your main subject is all alone, surrounded by nothing but negative space. (A low perspective is great for this; by dropping down to the ground, you can frame your subject against the sky.)
  3. Eliminate as much color as possible. You want uniformity, if you can get it: just one or two colors in a highly harmonious scene.
  4. Position your main subject toward the edge of the composition. You can try putting the subject at a rule of thirds power point or along a gridline, but you might also consider moving it closer to the edge of the frame.

The tree photo below is highly minimalistic. It includes a small tree positioned in the corner as positive space, while the rest of the photo is (for the most part) negative space, for a nice overall balance.

tree and clouds

4. Use negative space to convey emotion

Negative space tends to be bleak, even melancholy, especially in black and white images.

Use this fact. Tell a story with your composition – a story that’s laced with sadness, or loneliness, or quiet pleasure.

Of course, you should let the scene guide you, as I emphasized above. But you can also carefully add more negative space to your composition by zooming out, or by finding a uniquely empty background, etc.

Check out this negative-space-filled image. Is it full of emotion?

negative space bird flying sunset


Negative space photography is an excellent way to expand your skills and your photographic eye. By mastering negative space, you can capture consistently gorgeous images – no matter your genre of choice.

This article written by: Sandra Roussy, and it was originally posted in: DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL


spotlight illuminating smoke
Photo by cottonbro on

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photo of forest with fog
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

There seems to be in the photographers world, a strange phenomenon. It is called: “Lonely pictures”. No really, I am just as guilty as most of you, and it is interesting because back when there was just “film” for your camera, people printed more photos than they do now, per photos taken. It is probably because it’s just so easy to just “save” your photos, and if you need one, or want one, you can just print it.

How often do you actually see them, so you can enjoy the fruits of your efforts? How often do these images give you the repeat pleasure of reminiscing about when you were somewhere special—or with someone special? When do you take the time to actually enjoy your images? How you captured them? The delight in the surroundings? So much pleasure and delight, foregone—perhaps even forgotten?

A great photo with special memories. Making a print should be natural.

The above photo is one of my favorite photos. It is a perfect photo with the natural “twilight colors” and it’s my son out in the lake. It’s the best of all worlds. Printing this photo would be a perfect thing to do, because it brings back memories, but, makes me take the time to show off some of my own photography.

I also have a zillion images on my hard drives, but I try to pick up the few gems that I capture so that I can make the most of them.

Printing adds a whole new dimension to our photography and helps us to really appreciate our special images. We can see and appreciate them regularly. Bringing them into the physical world can stop them from getting lost on our hard drives.

There are two different ideas of printing your photos.

1- Photos for the “photo album”

Photo by Kirk Cameron on Unsplash

Photos of your family, that might go in a photo album is best printed by a professional photo lab. These small photos are generally so inexpensive, it makes sense to print this way, rather than waste a whole sheet of paper just to print 1 small photo that would go in an album. I use a good lab in my neighborhood, and I think they only charge 25cents for a 4X6 print.

2- Photos for the “wall”

Photo by Dan 7th on Unsplash

Photos that would go on the wall, with a frame, can be printed on your good photo printer from your own computer, or you can order them online from a photo processing store.

This is where the “artistic” photos should be displayed. It would be a place where you can think about the way this photo was taken, and actually learn about how you accomplished this piece of art.

Once you begin to print images at a reasonable size, you will find that your appreciation of your own photography develops and you will become more creative.

You are really beginning to discover the second half of the photographic process, which is what you do with your special images.

Give serious consideration to printing enlargements for the wall, and memory size photos for your album. It will add so much more to the pleasure of photography.

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Sometimes picking a frame and a matte is harder than taking the photo. So much variety. In enlarging a photo, first understand that there are different qualities to your enlargements. A standard print today, most likely is printed using “printer ink”. And today, it’s probably just Injected onto your print precisely.

From this you could go to custom work, which is the best type of printing you can do, if you ever want to just save your photo. You can have your print done on a “canvas material”, and also “museum print” or something equivalent.

Matte’s come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Picking one is the hard part.

When you pick a matte and frame, there are two schools of thought to this. I know, for consistency, a lot of photographers will just pick a white matte board, and then a black or white metal frame. And that looks ok. See below:

Simple framing with white matte board and metal frame

Matting and framing color photos:

I found the perfect video describing how to pick mattes and frames. Just click the link below:

I looked through dozens of tips on YouTube, and found this one to be the best. Please watch by clicking above.



10 Facts About Ansel Adams | Mental Floss
Probably the most famous of all photographers: Ansel Adams

It would be a great honor to meet Ansel Adams, but, he is gone, so I can’t meet him now. He is probably the most famous photographer ever lived.

An incredible photographer who, back in the days of film photography, developed the famous “zone system”.  And he was so famous for how he could create the perfect black and white photos using his “zone system” of getting the exposure perfect in every photo.

(See: you look at some of his photos, you are certainly mesmerized by the accuracy of his exposure in all his photos.  I can only imagine the time it took for him to take every photo, just because it was so involved:

Be A Modern Ansel Adams - Outdoor Photographer
One of Ansel Adams famous photographs.

No computer work done in any of his photos.  Everything was as naturally done in the camera as you can get it.  But, he passed away at the age of 82 in 1984.  So, I could never meet him now. 

So, who is the famous photographer that I would like to meet today?  Let me introduce you to him:
I may have mentioned that I have been in the photographic industry for some time.  Years, working in a retail store, and seeing books published and seen names and faces in the magazines. And the name that has been shown more than anyone I can think of is:


Today’s most famous photographer: Art Wolfe

Art Wolfe (born 1951) is an American photographer and conservationist, best known for color images of wildlife, landscapes and native cultures.[2] His photographs document scenes from every continent and hundreds of locations, and have been noted by environmental advocacy groups for their “stunning” visual impact.[3]
Wolfe’s career has been described as “multi-faceted”, involving wildlife advocacy, art, journalism, and education. According to William Conway, former president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Wolfe is a “prolific and sensitive recorder of a rapidly vanishing natural world.”[4] In the last 30 years, the public has viewed Wolfe’s work in more than sixty published books, including Vanishing Act, The High Himalaya, Water: Worlds between Heaven & Earth, Tribes, Rainforests of the World, and The Art of Photographing Nature.[4] 

Photography as Art | Lessons with Art Wolfe - YouTube
One of Art Wolfe’s famous photos.

I don’t know of any photographer to date that has had their own documentary show on PBS or any program that has gone longer than originally contracted.  Here is the information on that:
The public television series, Travels to the Edge with Art Wolfe,[8] is a documentary project that explores environmental themes of visual interest. Art Wolfe’s perspectives on nature, cultural diversity, geography and digital photography are the focus of each episode, as he travels to new global regions.[9] The series is hosted by Art Wolfe and supported by a professional film team (Karel Bauer, Field Director/Director of Photography; Sean White, Director of Photography; John Greengo, Field Production; and Gavriel Jecan, Field Production).[10]
The program began with the making of 13 episodes released in 2007.[11] By 2009, 26 episodes were filmed in nearly as many locations, including Patagonia, Madagascar, Alaska, New Zealand, and India.[12] Some of the specific subjects addressed include glaciers of Alaska, and sacred tattoos created by Maori artists.[13] The program is produced by OPB, distributed by American Public Television and aired on Create.
In 2015, Wolfe appeared in the Australian television series Tales by Light.

If you are interested, here is some information about Art Wolfe from Amazon to check out:



Saxon Switzerland National Park, Germany —– Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

Our National Parks, regardless of country, are some of the most beautiful places in the world. We can certainly enjoy the beauty of these parks, especially when it is the most colorful. These photos are, as you can see from the above photo, are a collection of photos from various National Parks around the world. Enjoy.

We were on our way up Angel’s Landing at Zion National Park in Utah. It felt like the hike would never end but looking up to our final 0.5 miles was breathtaking and mesmerizing. This is what I saw. —- Photo by Sapan Patel on Unsplash
New Forest National Park, United Kingdom —– Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


Theth National Park, Albania, Theth —— Photo by Rogier Schutte on Unsplash
green fields near brown mountain
Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming, USA —– Photo by Pixabay on
adventure autumn california country
Yosemite National Park, USA —— Photo by Pixabay on
red rocks
Arches National Park, Utah, USA —— Photo by Chris Janda on
landscape photo of mountains scenery
Photo by Onisam on

Tbilisi National Park, Tbilisi, Georgia ——– Photo by Nick Shvelidze on Unsplash
Yellowstone National Park, Photo by Lanny Cottrell
beautiful country countryside daylight
Yosemite National Park —— Photo by Pixabay on

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A small stream with waterfalls and smooth water in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the Fall with colorful leaves on the rocks and stones. —– Photo by Stephen Ellis on Unsplash
Acadia National Park Pond, Bar Harbor, ME, USA —– Photo by Miro Vrlik on Unsplash

How to effectively use your depth of field:

seaport during daytime
Photo by Pok Rie on

Landscape photos are everyone’s favorite. And it seems easy enough to do if you are at the right place at the right time. But, there is one thing a lot of photographers miss when taking landscape photos. And that is controlling the depth of field to your advantage.

Zone scale on a lens

I love to explain how to use this scale. For most photographers who haven’t used this yet, it’s like a light came on and they are so excited to use this concept.

Before we go to far, let’s make sure we understand “depth of field”. And simply put: The depth of field is the acceptable are of focus in front and in back of your focus point. This is what is so great about DSLR photography. You can control that amount of focus, simply by changing your Fstop on your lens, or your aperture setting.

Depth of field scale

Explaining how this works, let’s use this example above. If you focus on the rabbit, and if you want a narrow depth of field, you would use a large aperture setting on your lens (like 1.4,2.8). The bottom part of the example above shows that if I focus on the rabbit, I can extend my “depth of field” a greater distance, simply by using a small aperture setting on my lens (F16, 22). Does this really work? Of course! Here is another example using it on landscape photos. Which way do you like it:

results of aperture setting changes

Looking at this lens above, you will notice that the lens is focused on infinity. That is true. On the scale below the focus ring, you will see numbers that go from F16 down to F1.4. So let’s say we are wanting the area in focus at “infinity, and also want to capture the image in front of me. Once you have your lens set at infinity, notice that the scale has the aperture settings listed behind that. If you look closely, you will see that it shows that you are in focus from infinity to about 25 feet or about 10 meters, if the aperture is set at 1.4. But, using that aperture scale on the lens, if you had your aperture set at 22, then notice that the depth of field will change from infinity to around 8 feet or 2.5 meters. Nice, right?

Depth of field scale used to it’s best ability

Now this might throw you off a bit, but this is exactly why they put this on your lens so you can know exactly how much area of depth of field is in focus.

On the lens above here, it appears that the lens is focused at 5 feet, or 1.5 meters. And if we were going to set our aperture setting at F16, the scale says that your area that will be in focus, is from infinity to 2.5feet or .8meter.

Now you can see what the area of the depth of field can show you, let’s look at this lens closely. Now say you want the flower in front of you in focus, plus the entire landscape in focus. If you use your aperture setting at 16, that means that you are actually in focus from infinity to .8Meters, or 2.5 feet. Notice that the infinity setting is at 16 on the right side of the scale. So, according to the chart, at f16, you set the focus ring at f16 on the right hand side, and it tells you on the left hand side, the minimum focus. So, now that is exciting. You are still perfectly sharp at infinity according to this scale, and you are also sharp at 2.5feet or .8meters. That is how you really can control your depth of field to it’s maximum.

Every lens has this scale on it (well mostly). The new cheaper lenses seem to be missing it on certain brands.

An interesting point, and I am not sure why, I was out at night the other day, thinking of taking a photo of the moon, and when I focused on it, it was blurry. But, when I backed it off manually to a shorter focus, I could visibly see the moon get sharper. I am starting to think that manually focusing things will get you better results. Your eye knows better.

And now you can choose how you want your photo to be. Practice this and enjoy the results.


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