The primary Guide to Positive Space within Photography

The Essential Guide to Positive Space in Picture taking

positive space in photography: a guide

You may have heard of negative space , which refers to the more delicate areas surrounding the main issue in a photograph. However , positive space , the populated or focal point of an image, is an expression that tends to fly under the radar.

In this article, we’ll take a look at optimistic space in composition and how you can use it to improve your own photos.

What exactly is positive space in digital photography?

Positive area refers to the subject matter or even areas of peak interest in an image. It’s the particular key element of almost every great photo.

That said, like every compositional elements in pictures, positive space is inspired by other aspects of a composition. Perhaps one of the most significant of these aspects is negative space – positive area is often sculpted by adverse space and vice versa. You see, when photographing an obvious subject, there is usually “occupied” or good subject matter contrasted with negative elements that are not key focal points. Therefore , when discussing positive area, it’s hard not to mention the particular role of negative space, too.

While positive space may constitute the main show, negative space serves as the stage. And even though word negative seems to indicate a lack of content, the term doesn’t just refer to areas completely devoid of subject matter. In fact , undesirable space only has to be aesthetically quieter, less populated, subtler, or more restful compared to the main subject.

A brief history of positive space

Positive space – and the interaction of optimistic and negative space – has been used in art all through history. Painters, sculptors, designers, potters; all have well balanced positive and negative aspect to allow for areas of visual rest, rhythm, focus, activity, atmosphere, etc .

For example , negative space within traditional Japanese art styles is often embraced to accentuate or balance the weight from the expressive and spontaneous brushstrokes that constitute positive material.

Another illustration is Edgar Degas’s cautious use of negative space in his scenes depicting ballet dancers. The negative space imbues the photos with a higher sense of movement, context, and contrast, creating interesting juxtapositions and framing fine detail.

With the innovation of photography, the artistic possibilities of positive and negative space expanded to the photographic image. From Anna Atkins, Henri Cartier-Bresson , Dorothea Lange, plus Robert Frank to Diane Arbus , Hiroshi Sugimoto, Steve McCurry, and Didier Massard, photographers have used negative space to aid key (positive) focal points.

Why is positive space important?

Positive space matters since it can steer the story of an image or pull a viewer’s eye. With out positive space, negative room often looks directionless. In turn, a photograph lacking negative room may seem crowded or overpowering.

Positive space creates momentum, story, and visual climax. Damaging space can provide context, emphasis, isolation, and breathing room, funneling the viewer’s eyes toward positive space plus allowing the focal point to flourish.

plant in a forest
A plant tendril makes up the central, positive component, presented by the negative space from the unfocused background.
Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 50mm f/1. 8 II with expansion tubes | f/2. 9 | 1/250s | ISO 100

Working with positive room: the basics

There are several ways to approach photographing beneficial space. Here’s what I recommend to get started:

  1. First, identify the positive parts of the scene – the sun and rain of the composition that instantly stand out.
  2. Next, evaluate the negative space (you actually can use the viewfinder or even your LCD for this). What does the negative space carry out? Does it uphold the positive area? Does it add context? Depth ? Atmosphere? Narrative? Beauty?
  3. Finally, consider the technical aspects of your photo and how they might affect positive plus negative space. For example , extending the aperture will develop a shallow depth of field , along with a shallow depth of industry will often produce more negative space.

These basic considerations will help you improve your use of positive space.

Advanced tips and techniques for dealing with positive space

If you want to take your compositions to the next level, here are a few tips and tricks to assist capitalize on positive space:

Tip one: Apply compositional techniques

Positive space is really a fundamental part of photographic composition, but it doesn’t exist in isolation. It can work together with other compositional techniques such as leading outlines , depth of field, framing , symmetry, and perspective to create beautiful photos.

So the next time you’re out there with your camera, think about positive space. And also consider how you can use positive room in conjunction with composition principles to have the most impactful results.

landscape with rocks in the foreground and mountains in the background
Canon 5D Mark II | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/10 | 1/200s | ISO 100

Tip 2: Be mindful of both negative and positive space

The key to striking an effective positive/negative balance (or deliberate imbalance ) often lies in consciousness. When composing a photograph, make sure you carefully check the negative room that surrounds the positive room and ask yourself whether functions as it is – or regardless of whether it needs to be modified.

(A quick visual scan through the viewfinder or on the LCD is really a small action that can conserve time and many wasted game! )

the moon as positive space surrounded by dark negative space
Canon 5D Mark IV | Cannon EF 100-400mm f/4. 5-5. 6L IS II USM | f/5. 6 | 1/1600s | ISO five hundred

Furthermore, when framing a topic, running through a quick tips can be helpful. Ask yourself: What is the detrimental space contributing? What is the beneficial space contributing? Does good space benefit from the negative locations that surround it?

Briefly pausing to consider the positive/negative aspect in a photograph can improve your chances of capturing a successful image.

Tip 3: Use your camera configurations

Positive area can hinge on negative space that occurs naturally (i. e., the sky, dark areas, etc . ), or upon negative space that is deliberately created through camera settings.

For instance , in a busy urban environment, a slow shutter speed can blur the flow of traffic to create poor space (and this will, consequently, emphasize static subjects such as buildings and sculptures that constitute positive areas of interest).

ICM (intentional camera movement) can sometimes make blurry and abstract negative areas that highlight optimistic focal points. Selective focus may emphasize or deemphasize aesthetically positive areas, and by changing the aperture settings, you can blur the background and/or foreground surrounding a positive subject. Cruising in or out in-camera or cropping in post-production can also manipulate the dynamics of positive and negative space.


If you want more positive or negative space, you are able to create it yourself! Simply tweak your camera configurations to achieve the effect you’re after.

bokeh with rain-stained window
Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/4 | 1/25s | ISO 200

Tip 4: Know your story

Like most compositional tools, positive area can evoke emotions plus tell stories. By determining your narrative in advance, you may use positive and negative space to create an impactful, logical image.

For instance , a smaller positive subject fixed within a large amount of negative area can evoke a sense of range, isolation, simplicity, grandiosity, and distance. Negative space in the form of a bold, dark vignette can frame a positive subject matter for added impact. An image with predominantly positive room can generate immediacy and energy. Evenly distributed good and negative space can lend an impression of a harmonious relationship and balance.

(The list goes on! )

Tip 5: Experiment!

Any positive (and negative) space is affected by an endless amount of compositional variables. Trying out creative techniques, subjects, plus conditions broadens the creative potential of any beneficial subject.

And although the term “negative” suggests “nothingness, ” negative space, as we have seen, is just as versatile and important as its positive counterpart.

So while experimenting with optimistic space through the mindful adjustment of negative space could be a balancing act, gaining a good grasp on both forms of area will result in the best photos general.

intentional camera movement power lines
Canon 5D Mark IV | Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM | f/22 | 1/4s | ISO 100

A guide to positive space: conclusion

Positive space is a critical part of photographic composition. While the discussion of negative space is more common, positive space is the driving pressure behind countless photographic pictures.

Consciously working with positive space stimulates a greater connection with the subject matter, and it’ll also help you create more powerful compositions.

Now over to you:

Do you have any favorite ways to work together with positive space? How do you stability positive and negative space? Share your thoughts (and images! ) in the comments below!

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Megan Kennedy

Megan Kennedy

is really a photographer and writer located in Canberra, Australia. Both the girl writing and photography continues to be featured in numerous publications. Associated with Megan’s work can be viewed with her internet site or about Instagram at MK_photodiary .

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