The Power of Negative Space
one of the most important concepts in minimalism is the idea of negative space. If we can learn to see the space between our subjects and the balance between the subject and that space, we can create stronger cleaner images. Negative space can be smooth or colored. It can be textured. It can even contain some details were surrounded by such open blank canvases every day, clear skies, fog, snowy fields and unadorned wall. These are all examples of negative space. It's the space that lets your subject breathes and doesn't compete for attention. It gives context and scale. Negative space very simply is the space that surrounds the main element of interest in your photograph. Every image is a balance of positive and negative space. And using that relationship, we can leverage the power of negative space to help us identify and easily recognize the subject that you want the viewers to pay attention to an iceberg from Antarctica. This is sunset, It was a beautiful moment. We're out for hours...
that night taking photos of whales and basking seals and beautiful icebergs, just gorgeous light. And it is a really nice photograph. I like this image a lot and I think it tells a really nice story about Antarctica. But if I wanted just to tell the story of an iceberg on the ocean and that's it. I feel like this is a much stronger image. This first image while the iceberg is up front and center, you do get somewhat distracted by the highlights on the mountains in the distance and the reflection in the foreground on the ocean. Compared to the second image where the iceberg is 100% in the middle of the frame and there's basically nothing else distracting your eye from seeing that negative space is also really great for exploring the balance of space between subjects. So if you have multiple subjects in your frame and you know, you have more than one thing, you can still create a minimalist photograph as long as you're really aware of and keeping an eye on the space between those multiple subjects. Here is an image I took from baker lake in nunavut up in the arctic in Canada. It's basically just some kids playing pond hockey and I saw this was I was photographing some other things on the beach that day and I spent a couple hours actually watching them on and off to to wait for a moment when I could get this shot where the space between all my subjects was clean, so they didn't have players overlapping one another. You know, the kids who are getting ready and putting their skates on aren't on top of each other. There's really good separation and measured sort of distance between each, which I quite like. So sometimes it's a matter of patience and waiting for your moment, but it is really important to wait for those key moments when that space opens up. If not then creating them. So I'm talking a lot about the balance of positive and negative space. So what do I mean? What what is this balance all about? I've got a few images here that I'd like to go through the first one of this beautiful chinstrap penguin in Antarctica. And this image is a really clear example of what mostly positive space in your photograph would look like most of the real estate. And this shot is taken up by the subject, the positive space. You can see from these little graphics that I've inserted that all of this is positive space. This is what I want you to see. This is where I want the eye to go. These are the elements represent the negative space. Obviously more positive than negative. Here's an example of what I consider to be a more balanced positive to negative relationship. It may not be 5050, but it's somewhere in the middle positive, the penguin negative. Everything else nice and clean, but still not really exaggerated. Now, this final image is a more exaggerated version of that balance here. We have a positive space element with the penguin in the foreground and we have a positive space element with the mountain peak in the distance, but everything else in this image is basically negative space. It's not distracting, it's not really taking your eye and we have a really nice clean platform to showcase our penguin with the sort of repeated pattern triangle peak in the back there and I feel like the weight of this whole thing works really well because we've allowed so much negative space and so much room for the image debris and that brings me to my next point when you're using negative space, you can really harness the power of visual mass as a subject. So sometimes we've been talking about positive space as the subject, but sometimes the negative space becomes the subject as well or one of the subjects. It's just as important. Often in telling the story with your image as the positive space or the subject is, here's an example taken at Cape spear, the most easterly point in north America. It's the first place to see the sunrise and the continent. And this is the historic lighthouse on the Cape lit up with a starry, beautiful, clean, starry night. And I thought that this next image really showcases the visual mass. Here we have a lot of negative space which is in the sky and very little positive space which is this lighthouse in the bottom, right in the middle there. And the more I look at this image, the more I wonder what's in the sky, the more I wonder about the stars, the more my eye drifts up there. And so it's very clear when you first look at it that the positive space, the lighthouse is the prime subject. But slowly the more you look at it, the more the visual mass and that negative space also becomes a very important story telling piece also becomes a subject in this image. We are conditioned as humans to recognize importance in the human shape and form. So anytime you put a person in a photograph, whether they're close to the frame, like it's a portrait or their tiny in the distance, like this one here, we instantly give it more value and more weight than almost anything else in that composition. So using the human element is a really great way to show scale, but it's also a great way to play with that balance of positive and negative space and use like a tiny subject that has like an adequate amount of weight to balance out all of the negative space.