How to Use Negative Space to Create Interesting Minimalist Photos

Simplicity is beauty, and clever use of negative space will let you achieve that.

Ever felt like experimenting with negative space and minimalist photography? It can come in handy for your photography projects, so it’s a trick worth knowing how to pull off. All you need to get started is a big sheet of white board paper, a coffee cup, and some coffee (or similarly-colored liquid). Once you have those ready, proceed to this quick video tutorial to show you how it’s done.

Ray Scott of Visual Art Photography Tutorials on YouTube has set up a simple yet effective black and white negative space environment to turn something as simple as a coffee cup into a work of fine art. The key here is to work with different angles of lighting, and to make sure that there is minimal to no clutter in the frame. Watch how he achieves this in the video below.

The setup for this shoot was very simple: a single constant light source placed low and to the side, the white board placed on the floor, the coffee cup on the top of it, and the camera mounted over the cup using a horizontal tripod. With the way the light source is placed, the cup casts some interesting shadows over the white board, creating subtle tonal variations in the image.

To make a really clean, dominantly white image, Scott overexposed the first shot by 2 stops — which was necessary since the camera was compensating for the white-on-white by underexposing it. The result is an eye-catching high-key photo.

Now, the first sample image looks great already, and makes for a perfectly minimalist photograph. But, if you want to make it even more dramatic, you can go ahead and add colored liquid in the cup. Scott used water with blue food coloring for this shot and converted it to black and white. But if you want, you can go ahead and add real hot coffee to it to show some steam and bubbles, just like the real thing.

Feel free to get experimental with this negative space exercise, like turning the cup around and using flash like Scott did!

Check out the Visual Art Photography Tutorials channel for more photography tips and tricks from Ray Scott.

Screenshot image from the video by Visual Art Photography Tutorials