Vast areas of negative space is often included in photos mindlessly, the subject gets lost in the frame, and for no good reason. The viewer is left wondering what on earth the photographer was thinking!
So does that mean you should always shoot close up, crop tight? No way! You just need to use negative space with purpose.
So how do you know when and why you should include negative space? Be inspired by these 10 crazy spectacular photos that use negative space brilliantly, and learn when to use it, and why.
As always, all photos taken by our talented Grads. Aren’t they gorgeous?! If you want to learn how to shoot with confidence in any scenario, our Advanced Photography Course is starting soon. Jump on the wait list to get an email when seats open – it’s the easiest way to ensure you get the amazing SALE price and BONUS extras.
In this shot, Bronwyn stepped back, got down low, shot through the grass and shot wide to convey her own distance and ultimately created a sense of privacy and intimacy. They could be there all alone.
Also: gorgeous sky, gorgeous surroundings, why not.
Stunning backdrops of any sort are always a good reason to use a vast amount of negative space.
In these shots, other than subject, the backdrop is a hero. All that gorgeous texture, the rustic windows, the aged and weathered appearance… it’s too beautiful to exclude by cropping in close.
How do you include so much of the environment without losing this little guy in the frame?
Other backdrops that demand loudly to be included in their fullness for their spectacular good looks could be a firey sunset, a vast golden field of wheat, a stormy sky, a gritty, city laneway splashed with fabulous murals, a wall covered in interesting light patterns.
Framing your subject using the environment or architecture is one of our most powerful compositional tools, but in doing so the frame becomes part subject.
So include it properly to make a statement. If this were cropped in a lot closer, the walls around him would become more of a distraction than the beautiful, textured frame that it is. It’s also gone a long way to giving us a good sense of his size.
Using negative space is a fantastic way to showcase the environment when taking landscape and travel photos, and for that reason, it’s used a lot, along with a wide angle lens, in landscape and travel photography.
When you have a sky like this, I don’t care who’s in your shot… the sky is your hero. So include as much of it as you can. Let it fill at least half the frame, if not 2/3rds or even more. Some tips when doing this:
Another shot that includes the sky as hero. Those clouds! Absolutely stunning backdrop for this image.
Related: Get Sharp Photos of Kids in Motion
This one is two-fold. In this shot we see a vast, unspoiled, largely unoccupied space. And its communicated to us in no small way by the inclusion of Heidi’s little guy, who is teeny relative to the environment.
Or you can use it to convey the physical size of your subject… in this shot, for me personally as a parent, it brings out that natural protective urge.
At first glance you might wonder why all the negative space, or the purpose. But notice the framing around the hard light shadows? Linda has spotted her cat sitting in this little pocket of light, obviously loved the play of shadow and light, and wanted to include it.
Note she got down super low so we can really connect with her furry friend.
Look for hard light shadow patterns everywhere and include them as extra interest, or as a subject within themselves.
Once you start seeing, you’ll become addicted! You’ll find them indoors and out early and late in the day when the sun is low in the sky. Head out and look for sharply defined shadow lines created by trees against walls, architecture, play equipment, people.
Expose for the highlights so they don’t blow out, and use an aperture of at least f/3.5 for sharp shadow lines.
Related: Shadow Photography
Well it should go without saying you can’t shoot a sunset silhouette without including a vast amount of the sky. All that gorgeous colour, why would you exclude any of it?!
Also, don’t wait for summer. This was shot by Lisa in the dead of an Irish winter!
Related: How to Shoot a Sunset Silhouette
In order for Sue to include both her daughter on the bike and the long trail of hearts, she needed to shoot wide. That in turn was going to give her a lot of negative space at the top, bottom, or both (depending on how she framed) whether she liked it or not. In other words, she had no choice.
So she made the most of it. She got down low, included all of that grass in the foreground and placed her daughter at the top of the frame. She also gave her some space at the left to move into which is really important when we’re capturing subjects on the move.
So the inclusion of that negative space, which was unavoidable, now feels purposeful.
So what if she’d placed her in the middle of the frame, or at the top? Both would have worked, but we think this composition was the most impactful for a few reasons:
When we photograph action we need to include room in the frame for the suggestion of motion to happen. In this shot Alice has achieved that and more.
She’s included loads of negative space for the action to happen, and she’s done so through framing wide, and her low position. This enabled her to shoot up into the sky and frame out anything in the environment that would interrupt that negative space.
The result? Memories of childhood, that belly butterflying feeling as we swing through the air, and the overwhelming sense of freedom and space we enjoy when we do it. Nailed it.
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