little cabin on broadwalk above the lake photo-by-nathaniel-shuman-on-unsplash

How to Take Negative Space Photography: 6 Benefits | 9 Tips

March 10, 2023

Composition is a powerful form of art. It's what drives your eye to the focal point in an image and creates a feeling or mood. Negative space is one of the most powerful forms of composition; it's what balances a photo and can help draw attention to your subject.

In this post, we will go over how to get the negative photo effect in your photos, its benefits, and tips for use.

What is a Negative Space in Photography?

Negative space is the blank space that exists in the frame of a photograph. Negative space is very beneficial to photography because it can be used for so many different reasons.

It can make a photo more dynamic by creating a sense of movement and tension or balance a frame by creating a focal point for your viewers' eyes to rest on when viewing your image.

Positive vs. Negative Space


girl walking on snowing road through the forest


When taking a picture, positive and negative spaces are established by where you place your subject in relation to the rest of the frame.

Positive space is the area within your frame that is occupied by your subject. It is the space around your subject that you are focusing attention on.

Negative space is the blank area surrounding your subject. It is the area that is outside the focus of your image.


Positive space is used to fill the foreground and give your image context. Positive space can be an object or person in an image that serves as the focal point.

Negative space helps to define your subject by creating a contrast against it. They can create movement in an image, create visual tension and even draw attention to the subject.

Emotion Conveyed

a person selling things by sitting on the street


Positive and negative space can be used to create a feeling or mood in your images.

Positive space conveys a sense of chaos, movement, tension, lightness, and energy.

Negative space, on the other hand, can be used to convey balance, calmness, sturdiness, and relaxation.

Benefits of Using Negative Space in Photography?

1. Creates Balance

Negative space can balance a frame, especially if you have a subject in the center. Negative space will help to create an even, open and balanced composition by giving your viewer an empty picture frame.

This way, the subjects appear well-centered, balanced, and at ease.

2. Evokes Emotion

How you place your subjects and how they interact with the environment can evoke different emotions from your viewers. For example, if your subject is surrounded by a negative space with high contrast, it will create a feeling of tension and excitement.

Alternatively, if it is surrounded by negative space with lower contrast, it will create a feeling of calmness and serenity.

train driving towards from the other end of the rail


3. Guides the Viewer's Focus

Another benefit of negative space photography is the ability to focus on a single subject or aspect of a scene. Negative space allows for a clear, unobstructed view which eliminates distractions and helps to highlight the desired focal point.

The image becomes more about what's crucial and what you want people to see.

4. Shows Movement

Negative space can help portray movement in a still photo. It can be seen when the photo's subject is in motion, but there is a large gap between its front and back.

The movement becomes apparent when everything around them appears to have stopped. When you see the negative space in a photo, you feel like you are looking at the reality of a moment.

5. Depth

hotel light in the dark sky


If a photographer has a lot of negative space in either the foreground or background and not much in the middle, the eye will wander around the image, searching for something to look at, and this will create a sense of depth in the image rather than just a flat surface.

It is an important aspect of composition because it leads the eye through an image, giving it more depth and a three-dimensional feel.

6. Create Mystery

Skilled photographers can use negative space to create mystery and intrigue in their work. Here, photographers take photos with a dark background and the subject placed in front of it.

By making the viewers focus on the subject, negative space creates the illusion that there is more going on than just what is seen.

The use of negative space can also create a sense of mystery in a photo by showing only parts of something, leaving the viewer to fill in the missing pieces.

How Do You Create a Negative Space in Photography?

1. Use the Rule of Thirds

metal shelf standing into the air


A great way to ensure your negative space shot is framed well is using the rule of thirds. For example, if you are aiming for a shot where there is a subject and negative space to the left and right of it, make sure that the subject is placed in one of the intersections of lines on an imaginary grid.

2. Plain Backgrounds Work Best

When creating negative space, it is important to ensure your background is not distracting. A distracting background can make your negative space shot less impactful and look less artistic.

Instead, opt for a simple background to make the subject stand out more.

3. Check Your Surrounding

When taking pictures, always be aware of the environment around you. You can create negative space in your photos by including a lot of the surrounding area in front of or behind your subject.

Take advantage of non-threatening elements and keep your background simple. For example, if you're at an amusement park, try to shoot the scenery with rides in the back.

cup of coffee placed beside a pair of sunglasses


4. Try to Tell a Story

Negative space, when used correctly, can be a powerful communication tool. Try to tell a story with your photographs by having your subjects pose or act in a way that reinforces the story you want to tell, whether that be social commentary or your kids splashing around the ocean at sunset.

5. Experiment with Subject Placement

Try moving your subjects around in different places and postures to see what happens to the overall photo. For example, try making them stand still or have them walk across the frame from one side to the other.

Try moving or cropping your subject, moving the background, and changing their angle of view by changing their position in the frame.

6. Manipulate the Light

Experiment with lighting and adjust your settings accordingly to create that mood, tone, and atmosphere you want.

For example, if you need to create negative space, you can ensure your subject is in a position that does not have a lot of light spilling into their body. Instead, use a backlight or fill light to direct the light at the area that you want to make negative. This will make the background appear removed, maximizing the effect of the negative space.

grain field with empty sky


7. Don't Fill the Frame

Don't put too much in the frame. Filling the frame with anything is a mistake, including people and objects. A good picture is about finding ways to balance your subject with space.

To create an effective photo, you need to find a balance between the amount of negative space and the focus of your image. Too much of either can ruin an otherwise great image.

8. Leave Room for Interpretation

This means leaving enough space in your image for the viewer to be able to fill it with their own imagination. For example, let the viewer come up with their conclusions about what is happening between your subject and the background.

This adds an element of suspense to your photo by leaving unanswered questions in the viewer's mind.

Bonus Tip: Cropping

buring incense on desk


Sometimes, our photos don't come out as expected. When you try to take a photo, you might end up with something that doesn't live up to your expectations. Cropping can save your photo from becoming a total flop in these situations.

Cropping lets you get rid of unwanted distractions by cutting out unnecessary background elements. You can also cause a particular element to stand out, such as the subject of your photo, by putting them in a certain part of your frame and leaving the rest empty.


Negative space photography is a great way to add an artistic twist to your photographs, whether you want to create a soft focus look or remove the background from your images. This technique can help you create amazing photos without needing lots of fancy equipment.

Remember, though, that the type of negative space you try and achieve will depend on the type of subject you're photographing. Always experiment with slight changes and adjustments in positioning, light levels, and more until you get the best image your subject will allow. 

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