Negative space in photography is defined as the space around and between the subject(s).  It is the opposite of positive space, which is defined as the space taken up by the primary subject(s) in a photograph.  Compositions with a lot of negative space, sometimes referred to as “white space” or “empty space,” are a commonly used for creative and minimalistic photography.  Negative Space photography refers to images in which the majority of the photograph consists of negative space.

In the following article, we’ll discuss negative space photography by tackling the following concepts:

Why Use Negative Space?

Photographers can use negative space for a variety of creative and artistic effects.  We’ll discuss a few examples below.

To create simplicity and minimalism

For example, a lot of negative space in a photograph can create interest and beauty in its simplicity such as the image below.

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Timothy Eyrich – Website | Instagram

To draw focus on the subjects

Eliminating the distracting elements in the scene can put all of the emphasis and focus on the subject(s).  Notice how your eyes are drawn to the subjects in the image below.

6 postive and negative space photogaphy
Raph Nogal – Website | Instagram

To showcase the beautiful environment

Negative space can also be used to showcase beautiful environments and backgrounds such as sunsets and landscapes.  This is a common concept when photographers create environmental portraits.  In the image below, see how the beauty of the sunset and the rocks are captured along with the loving moment of the wedding couple.

negative space photography
Trevor Dayley – Website | Instagram

To Capture Interesting Colors or Patterns

Negative space can also be used to capture interesting colors or patterns in a scene.  Notice how the greens and yellows are uniquely prominent in the following image, creating interest and beauty.

1 positive and negative space
Sean LeBlanc – Website | Instagram

Negative Space Photography Tips

Besides approaching negative space photography with intent, and understanding the reasons for using it, here are a few more tips to help you create interesting and impactful imagery.

Tip 1 | Watch Out For Vignetting

One thing to be aware of is the possible barreling and/or vignetting effects you might get on the edges of your images from full-frame sensors and/or ultra-wide angle lenses. In these instances, you may want to avoid placing your subject in the extreme edges of your images, and instead, crop in your post production.

Tip 2 | Watch Our for Softness

Most lenses are sharpest near the center of the frame and softer around the edges of the frame.  This is another reason to consider placing your images closer to the center and cropping in post production to some degree.

Tip 3 | Remember to Use Storytelling

Use your wide negative space image as part of a set of photos that tell a complete story.  In addition to the wide shot, be sure to get photos with medium and tight crops as well.  Read more about cohesiveness and storytelling here.

Examples of Negative Space Photography

Below are a few examples of negative space photography from our community of incredible photographers.

Ken Pak – Website | Instagram

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Joel Didier – Website | Instagram

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Marissa Joy Daly‎ – Website | Instagram

positive and negative space photography

David Mendoza III – Website | Instagram

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Chad & Beth Winstead – Website | Instagram

negative space photos 2

Jason Vinson – Website | Instagram

negative space photos

Ramiro Cervantes – Website | Instagram

negative space photography 2

Nguyen Quoc Huy – Website | Instagram

positive and negative space photography 1

Pablo A. Rajczyk‎ – Instagram

negative space photos 1

Marlies Hartmann – Website | Instagram

negative space wedding photography

Lissette & Orlando Suarez‎ – Website | Instagram

negative space photography


In photography, there are numerous things that can detract a viewer’s focus away from the subject.  These elements can be lines, colors, textures, or anything that distracting. While these elements can be used intentionally for artistic purposes to add contrast, tell a story, or place the subjects in their environment, they are too often present in our images without purpose.  This is where negative space photography is so powerful.  It showcases the beauty in simplicity.

For more information on composition, we recommend this article and video on One simple trick for better compositions! We even interviewed pros to find out how they think of their compositions before they click, read more here. To learn more about compositional theories and how to use them in your photography, join us in SLR Lounge Premium where we have 30+ courses in our library ranging from shooting tips to A-Z post-production tutorials!