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Negative Space versus Dead Space

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Negative space can make or break an image. In this case, the sky enhances the subject.

Negative space is a positive thing. 🙂 It’s critical to building an appealing photograph. The best photographers have learned to make the most of negative space – and to avoid “dead” space. There is a big difference between the two. In my photo above the sky can be considered negative space. It is not the subject of the photo… but it’s important nonetheless. In the photo below – taken from the same spot – there’s a lot of dead space. Does the open field on the lower left add to the photo? Does the clear blue sky add anything? Do they help define the subject? I’d answer “no” to all these questions. The photo is ineffective at best… and that’s because it’s mostly dead space. What is my subject? Perhaps the blue mountain in the distance. The leading line on the right draws me toward that element… but the open field and the empty sky do nothing to highlight it.

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Empty patches of sky and the uninteresting field take up too much space, and add little to the photo.

When you are creating new images, think about how the space around your subject contributes to the photograph. Dead space can kill a photo, but negative space can enhance it.

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Subtle details in the sky and the water compliment the beautiful ice formation. Negative space enhances the subject and provides a sense of place.

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The water in the foreground is uninteresting and dull. This is a perfect example of dead space. The uninteresting water takes away from the image.

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The blurred flower in the background adds a secondary point of interest in the negative space. It’s a soft compliment to the subject.

About Author Varina Patel

There is nothing more remarkable to me than the power of nature. It is both cataclysmic and subtle. Slow and continuous erosion by water and wind can create landscapes every bit as astonishing as those shaped by catastrophic events – and minuscule details can be as breathtaking as grand vistas that stretch from one horizon to the other. Nature is incredibly diverse. Burning desert sands and mossy riverbanks… Brilliant sunbeams and fading alpenglow… Silent snowfall and raging summer storms… Each offers a unique opportunity. I am irresistibly drawn to the challenge of finding my next photograph, and mastering the skills required to capture it effectively.


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