How to use Positive and Negative Space to Improve Photo Composition

Photo composition and the balance between positive and negative space in your images can alter the tone of the story you’re trying to tell quite dramatically.

Photo composition is one of the very first things what all budding photographers need to get a firm understanding of. You can learn how to shoot in manual mode, but if you never develop the ability to compose a shot, learn about the rule of thirds and other composition skills you’re not going to get far. After a break we have a video that explores the difference between positive and negative space, and why both are so vitally important when it comes to photography and story telling.

The way that we compose our images is vital when it comes to trying to convey a story or portray feelings. Sure you can have a nice image, but if the composition doesn’t match the story you’re trying to the tell, or the feelings you want to convey the image can be lost, and instead of becoming an image that can evoke emotion, it can turn into just another pretty picture.

A photo that is filled with positive space is basically an image that has a lot going on. It could be an image of a field of sunflowers, with just a hint of a blue summer sky, or it could be a photo that shows a table filled with food.

Positive space is space that’s filled up with your main subject and there is simply no denying what you are trying to show and convey. It can almost become more of a pattern rather than an image that is trying to tell a story as there is just so much information there. The image above is a good example. There is very little negative space here as photographer was trying to show the viewer the brightly colored produce, and the neat display.

The flip side of the coin is negative space. Negative space when it comes to photo composition refers to the areas where there is nothing but empty space. Take the image above for example. This type of image really tells a story. It gives a grand sense of scale and forces you to really focus on the main subject.

You can tell the woman is travelling, you can almost feel the wind in her hair, and you can imagine the noise of the waves as they crash against the boat. Is she travelling to a loved one, or starting a new adventure? These are the types of stories these images can tell.

The image above stirs emotions, and it makes you think about the subject and what she’s doing.  If this image had been taken so that the model filled the frame and used more positive space, you wouldn’t get that feeling of things being on such a grand scale. The story would slip away. That’s the power of negative space in images.

Check out the enlightening video below from Weekly Imogen and listen to what she has to say about the subject of photo composition, and positive and negative space.

What do you guys and gals think about positive and negative space? How do you like to use the two in your images? Let us and your fellow readers know in the comment section below.