Great Examples of Negative Space in Black and White Photography

In itself, black and white photography is already minimalist, but you can make it even more effective with great use of negative space.

When we speak of minimalist photography, shooting in black and white is often one of the first techniques that come to mind. Without the distraction of colors, a scene is reduced to the interaction between light and shadows and how they make eye-catching contrast, often useful for both creative photography and visual storytelling. But, to make your black and white photography even more effective as minimalist images, simplifying your composition with a good grasp of negative space is necessary. This is where today’s featured video tutorial comes in handy.

The video below, by The Art of Photography, is all about creating strong compositions by simplifying the scene and applying negative space. While the examples show how it works especially well for black and white photography, it can also work for minimalist color photography as well.

The video mentioned simplifying the scene by removing extraneous elements that do not enhance your image or give it clarity. Negative space refers to the empty space that allows the figures in your composition to “breathe” a little bit. The challenge often lies in identifying how the negative space relates to what is happening to your subject. Figure – Ground Relationship is also key to utilizing negative space effectively. In photography, figure simply refers to your subject or the elements in your composition, while ground is the size or dimension of your image.

Take note that for some genres like landscape or street photography, it’s extra challenging to control the Figure – Ground Relationship compared to something like studio photography. It’s generally difficult to apply these concepts to photography period as we’re not working with a blank canvas. Instead, we have to “remove” elements in our composition (by changing the angle, getting closer or further away from the subject, etc.) in order to simplify it.

The varied examples show how simplification and negative space work together to either convey a concept (especially in minimalist images), place emphasis on the subject, or create a mood. If you’re looking to improve your black and white photography, these examples should inspire you to put these concepts into practice!

Check out The Art of Photography YouTube channel for more helpful photography videos like this.

Screenshot image from the video