What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,392
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

Goethe wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Goethe wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

There are several responses of yours I could reply to here but I am picking this one simply due to a lack of available time to address things.

Just Tim 4 wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

...What I'm advocating here is that negative space isn't a "thing".

Negative space is a thing. It is way past being accepted in the world and market of Art. Not being able to understand something should never allow you to doubt its existence, especially in the face of it being an established artistic idea/format/concept.

no lack of understanding of what people call it and how they use it. But like the highly accepted idea of rule of thirds, it obscures principles what people should be seeing or doing.

I'm glad you mentioned rule of thirds. Now that is a compositional tool. It is a simple, easy to comprehend shorthand rule to help new photographers understand the most basic aspects of what makes a good image.

And exactly what is it that makes the rule of thirds work? Can you actually explain that?

And like all rules such as itself it is expected to be broken by advanced practitioners.

Negative space is not a compositional rule. It is an artistic tool. Not sure why you dont seem to get that.

Oh, so veiled derision now?

Look, here's the thing. A negative space photograph is one in which the negative space in an image is specifically created in such a way as to isolate or draw attention to the main subject. In this way, and in some disagreement with another poster, negative space can indeed almost become the subject itself. Because you are using the empty, the negative, to tell the narrative.

And yet another use of the term. Is this the compositional version of micro contrast?

Um, no. I starting to think the best example of negative space is this conversation.

Don't get so worked up about this. We were having a conversation and now you've descended into derisive speech. There's no need for that.

You seem to be grappling with how such a thing is different from composition. As a shorthand version of this I simply recommend you think of negative space as a compositional tool. I mean, it isn't, but it's not going to hurt anyone if you want to think of it that way.

But understanding negative space and how it effects an image goes much, much deeper than that. Try contemplating the void, the empty spaces. Look not only at the shapes in your environment, but the spaces between them. Use these swaths of nothingness as a canvas to isolate a subject or an idea.

is it really that deep? Or is it more deep? I don’t see clarity coming from anyone yet.

Yes. It is deep. As deep as the artist using it can make it. It is a tool, a mindset, a storytelling device. When used by a skilled photographer it can help to create deep and moving imagery that stand out for their starkness. Yes, it is deep. As should be every input into this craft of ours. Well, mine at least.

More veiled derision?

If for whatever reason though some deeper insight is not revealed to you then just say its a compositional tool and call it a day.

I mean, it isn't that, but nobody else's photography will suffer for it.

No, it's a concept that helps you organise marks and shapes on a 2D surface with an understanding of how they will be interpreted.

Not sure what you mean here. Why would you not organize around a grid and the primary concepts of composition?

Rather, design techniques are and they are sometimes interpreted as "he's using negative space to do xyz"

Yet you still try and talk about it as a *thing*, he's not using negative space but organising shapes and tones with an understanding of how you will interpret what is the *object* and what is the *background*.

I think something is being missed when you put it that way. There has to be more going on or you can end up with mud.

when in reality, something else is going on. And then students think that negative space is a thing and they create a lot of schlock because they don't get what's really happening from a symmetry/design/story standpoint.

Negative space is an understanding that in 2D images your audience will make some base assumptions when they view. One of those assumptions is that we separate *subject* or *object* from the *background*. It's about how we organise elements in an image to form a logical understanding that's consistent with our memory. You can play with these ideas and your audience's assumptions as demonstrated in the link in this post here:


You're elevating negative space more than I would and I don't think it works that way.

A much more cogent argument is that you are devaluing negative space because you dont understand it.

Yea, nice dismissal. Aside from being condescending, you just made it clear you’re unable to really advance the idea clearly.

Again, your failure to understand what I have said is not me failing to advance the idea. I advanced the idea in both words and images.

I have absolutely no personal responsibility as to your artistic education. I also have no moral obligation to overcome your reticence concerning a more advanced artistic conception you seem extremely reluctant to believe. At this point you seem merely to be argumentative for the sake of being such.

I have provided visual examples of my art featuring this technique. Others here have as well. Many here have also provided detailed explanations of negative space and its application. If you dont get it, or you disagree with it, you are under no obligation to believe what was presented to you.

I think you need to come back to this when you can be more civil. Not sure why this is upsetting, but I can assure you this is civil on my part.

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