Lesson 3: Using Space
Composition isn't just about the subject, but also
how the subject relates to the background and to the frames of the
picture. In most cases the subject can be considered the positive
space of the photograph, and everything else can be considered the
negative space. That is to say, the negative space is contained
by the frame and the edges of the positive space.
Dominate Positive Space - minimal negative space
The positive space and the negative space are contained by the
frame, or edges, of the picture. The photographer's task is then
to develop a spatial relationship between the positive and negative
space within the frame in such a way as to convey a message. That
could mean framing the subject such that it dominates the total
frame–lots of positive space, minimal negative space. In this
composition, there is no doubt about the subject and these photos
tend to be very strong.
The photographer could also chose to strike a balance between the
positive and negative space. If not done effectively, however, this
can produce a rather boring composition.
Striking a Balance
It is, however, possible to produce images in which there is a
great deal of negative space. This would be done to emphasize the
relationship between the subject and the background.
Letting the Negative Space Dominate
You may also chose to have the subject intersect the edges of the
photo to produce a more dynamic image. This can be very effective
when done correctly.
Intersecting the Frame
Ultimately, the photographer's goal is to control
the viewer's eye and by skillfully using positive and negative space
and how they intersect with the frame or edges of the image, the
photographer can measurably control the viewers' eye to ensure they
don't become bored and to control what the viewers discover within