Using Negative Space

White/Minimalism [Nurture Photography]

There’s something beautifully calming about taking a long walk outside after it has just snowed. The landscape covered with a white sheet of fresh snow, before it has been muddied with footprints and tire tracks, appears calm and serene.

I still find a little fun in being the first person to walk through the snow in some parts, as I explore little side streets and alleys of my neighbourhood. Places that I’ve been to before, but not when they appear like this. Even the messiness of the El tracks nearby look calm under the snow, dormant plants waiting for Spring appear soothing and still as they peek out from under the vast white.

The scenery covered with snow appears more defined. I can take in each piece separately without the normal clutter.

negative space, white, minimalism, nurture photography

Negative Space in Photography

Frame, Positive Space and Negative Space

In photography, the frame is the edge of your image. The positive space is the focus of your photograph and the negative space is what surrounds the positive space. Negative space is not the total absence of space, despite what the term may suggest, it is everything around the subject and is what defines the positive space.

Observing the negative space in a scene, as well as the subject (or positive space), before you hit the shutter means that you can use it to bring further definition to your subject. It can be used in a more extreme way to create minimal photographs, a pulled back photo of the subject surrounded by blank (or mostly blank) space. Observing the negative space will aid in your composition, consider how the the frame, positive space and negative space all work together to create balance in an image.

negative space, white, minimalism, nurture photography

Negative space is an important aspect in all kinds of different visual design work: in photography, drawing, graphic design, sculpting.

In many compositions negative space can be used to help create the thirds for following the rule of thirds. It can be used in all kinda of different compositional styles to help define the image, but typically it should not distract from the subject. It should prevent your image becoming too cluttered and give the eye of the viewer somewhere to rest.

negative space, white, minimalism, nurture photography

negative space, white, minimalism, nurture photography

Why is the Negative Space Important?

Sometimes we try to fill up every inch of the frame with something interesting. But by making good use of negative space to define your subject, you help to control the attention of the viewer onto the area you wish them to look at and in which order you would like their eye to examine the image.

Negative space can also be used in some compositions to add drama and tension to an image, to make an image more dynamic.

Sometimes negative space can be used to let us know a little more about the positive space. A close up of a small branch with some snow on it only serves to tell us of the branch, but a wider shot with more negative space tells us that the entire scene is covered with a blanket of fresh snow.

A great way to learn how to use negative space is to go through some old photographs in your editing program and experiment with different crops on each. Examine how they affect the feel or mood of the shot and how each different crop causes the viewer’s eye to be lead in a slightly different pattern.

negative space, white, minimalism, nurture photography

Nurture Photography, Photo Challenge, Winter 2013

I’m teaming up with Kristi of Live and Love Out Loud, on another inspiring adventure as we photograph our way through winter with the Nurture Photography Challenge – a seasonal photo challenge series chock full of tips and tutorials, inspiring weekly prompts, personal feedback and encouragement.

Just a few details:

All are welcome regardless of skill level, camera equipment or geographic location.

Share your favorite images inspired by our weekly prompts each Friday and grab our lovely button while you’re at it!

Nurture Photography Challenge Winter 2013, Photo Challenge, Winter Photo Challenge

The linky will remain open from 9am Friday – 9am Thursday CST. Don’t forget to visit and comment on the previous entry in the linky list.

We’re sharing the photography love and showcasing our talented photographers by pinning some of your lovely photos to our Nurture Photography Inspiration Board.

The Nurture Photography Challenge has taken to Facebook! Stop by, “like” our new Facebook fan page, ask questions and share your work on our wall as well.

We love Instagram just as much as you do! We’ll be on the lookout for your beautiful winter photos, so be sure to use the #nurturephoto hashtag. We’ll share a few favorites on Instagram each week, sending a little bit of love your way.

Next week’s prompt will be Silver/Treasure. For a complete list of prompts, head on over to the Nurture Photography Challenge Page.


  1. I have actually been focusing on using negative space more in some of my photos. I love how it draws the eye right to the focal point of the photo. Gorgeous snowy photos.
    Tish´s last post ..The Simple Beauty of White

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  3. Audrey

    Loving your info on Negative space and how you show those concepts. Beautiful!

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  5. I love the image of the fresh clean snow against the dirty brick wall. I went to Chicago one time with my brother after I graduated from college. I found the big city fascinating, but all I really remember on the taxi ride to our hotel was how the city smelled like exhaust and fried chicken…did I mention the cabbie made me car sick 😉 I’d love to visit there again one day! Beautiful images!
    Anna-Leigh´s last post ..DIY ~ Mod Podge {Android} Phone Cover

  6. Such a joy – these shots. And, I agree. I absolutely love being outside after it has just snowed. Thanks for all you wrote about negative space – so helpful! I’m a real beginner…and some times I sense things, but don’t know how to articulate what I’m seeing, or why I’m responding a certain way to what I’m seeing. Lovely.
    Adrienne´s last post ..Wonderful White

  7. I love your snow shots. I do appreciate the tips you give each week. Thanks so much for hosting these great challenges!
    Teresa´s last post ..Muddy

  8. Beautiful images. Thank you for the reminder of a great way to capture outdoor beauty. I will try to play with negative space this week!

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