Photographic Equipment

Digital Photography: Negative Spaces and Positive Spaces

stockxpertcom_id255196_size1.jpgToday’s topic is a term borrowed from the art world. This term is negative and positive space. If this is something you have never heard of, then you will love this article. Additionally, it will assist you immensely with your photography.

Shutter speed, lighting, aperture and focus are factors you are dealing with in digital photography. Whether you realize it or not, you are also working with space very precisely. How does this affect your skills as a photographer?

Negative space is defined as “the space around the subject of an image”.

This refers to the empty space around your main subject. This may seem like unimportant background area, but this vacant area can add a crucial factor to your photography composition.

Positive space is defined as “the focal point of a work of art or shape of the work of art”. In photography, this is the subject matter, or possibly what you were aiming your camera at. This is as opposed to the backgound or unused space in your photo.

Now, how do we apply these technical terms practically?

A large element of your compostion is the negative space.. Having too much
or too little negative space around your subject can destroy a potentially fantastic
digital shot. Always examine how much space there is surrounding your focal subject to better your photography. The tiniest bit too little or too much can totally displace your photographic compostion.This is especially crucial when the subject has a distinct point of focus. Examples of this are aspects of sharp colour, a person’s eyes or even defining lines meeting at a point.

Here are two photos to display the techniques that I am talking about.

Photo by Manu M

The negative space in this photo complements and supports the positive space very well. The negative space is very interesting, initially because it is blue. This contrasts with the main subject. The white seems to move into the main subject without hesitation or distraction. While the clouds do take our eyes away from the branches, this is only momentarily.

Here is the photo now with less negative space. Negative space has been
edited out to change the effect.


There has been a 3 cm crop from the right to change the focal point. Everything has been changed visually by the removal of the negative space. The end of the tree trunk in now the main focal point, and as a result, your eyes don’t follow the branches outward as they did previously. The photo is not catastrophically worse, but it does display the artistic importance of the negative space.

Luckily for you, you can pick up an abundance of tips like this with even greater scope in Amy’s easy to read, down loadable tips guide. Pay close attention to what you are snapping and the negative space around your main subject. Altering the slightest thing can improve or reduce the quality of your photos.