Positive space is defined as the primary subject(s) in a photograph, while negative space is the space around and between the subject(s).

There are numerous things that can detract a viewer’s focus away from the subject, whether it be lines, colors, textures, or anything interesting/distracting anywhere besides the subject of the image. These can be used intentionally for artistic purposes to add contrast, tell a story, or place the subjects in their environment, but they are too often present in our images without purpose.

A powerful technique is using negative space to the point that it occupies most of the image. The negative space has the effect of placing all of the focus on the subject(s); and it is usually more interesting/flattering than a close up portrait. With so much white space in the image, any expression or emotion on the subject is emphasized.

Here are a few examples:

indian wedding bahia resort san diego california

Shot at Bahia Resort in San Diego, CA with a Canon 40D on a 24-70mm f/2.8L USM at ISO 200 f/4.0 1/80

Note: 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 edges of your images, and instead, crop in your post production.

saint lawrence martyr catholic church redondo beach californiaShot with a Canon 40D using a Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8 at ISO 200 f/5.0 1/60