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

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lilBuddha Veteran Member • Posts: 4,376
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Just Tim 4 wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

So then there isn't really "negative space" as an actual or useful concept, just figure to ground or greatest contrast.

This is the part I don't understand, (or is it because I fail to communicate the idea properly?), that on forums we don't question our base assumptions or the way in which we see. We generally assume that because we see something in an image that it is an intrinsic property of an image and is therefore contained within an image and can be categorised and labelled. We also view the opinions of others and instinctively try to fit them within our own base assumptions. We try to fit new ideas into our current understanding rather then see that the concepts are actually about changing and questioning that viewpoint and understanding.

It doesn't seem to occur to some that the concept of negative space is perceptual and that it may in fact be the act of looking and seeking to apply an order to gain an understanding of what we see that creates it.

It also has nothing to do with contrast as I can just as easily use an outline drawing.

That you can't see past the object and it's reality is your shortcoming, and a common one. You see and recognise the object without questioning why you see and recognise the reality of the object in a 2D representation.

I understand that when I draw a shape I am actually creating two shapes, a positive and a negative form, even though the viewer generally only sees the one. That the relationship between the positive and negative forms reveals the shape and can be a powerful tool. I find it an incredibly useful concept in understanding the true nature of 2D representation and how people see and interpret images.

Not sure I get what you're saying in all this. Nice photos here - negative space? They seem to stray from that idea a good bit. Now you're showing a lot of other techniques.

No image must be one technique or idea.

Not advocating that.

What I'm advocating here is that negative space isn't a "thing". Rather, design techniques are and they are sometimes interpreted as "he's using negative space to do xyz" when in reality, something else is going on.

The artworld accepts negative space as a thing. Why do you think it isn't and what else do you think is going on?

I think what I mean is that focusing on the concept of negative space is misleading and doesn't really uncover what is or should be going on for the artist.

The concept is not misleading. Some people's use of the term might be, but the concept is solid. It is a tool used for composition, just as leading lines are. If you thing leading lines are misleading, then we really can't communicate on this.

I used leading lines to refer to arabesques. There are also diagonals from root grid lines that can be considered leading lines although they're not as "leading" as arabesques.

Arabesques do not need to lead, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

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.

Art students create a lot of schlock due to inexperience.

Let's walk through the example photos in this post.

The banks of the river are negative space. Why? Because the relative lack of detail and the contrasting value allow the river to stand out and be a greater focus.

Depends on how you define "negative space" - I'm not certain it's always the same definition. I see a well accomplished figure to ground relationship by having detailed and interesting subject matter up against formless/void/darker subject matter. Not just that it's formless/void space but also the different tonal value.

You've just described negative space, but called it figure to ground.

I would say that it's not necessarily the same. Figure to ground relationship doesn't suggest that the space around the subject be formless and/or void.

Negative space does not have to be formless or void either.

In this one, the sky is negative space for the same reasons the banks were in the above image. The bright, featureless nature of the sky brings the tree trees into prominence.

Not all would say that negative space is formless/featureless Some teach that it's any space that is not the subject. So that is already one problem.

Negative space is not necessarily formless. It is in this image, but it is not always. Granted that negative space has no distinct border between what is and what isnt.

How/why no distinct border?

Because some people are more rigid in their mindset than others.

There are images that definitely use it, those that definitely do not. But, like all concepts, there will be disputes on the border.

But here, I see a strong area of contrast being used along with a formless background to accomplish a strong figure to ground relationship. That it is "negative space" isn't the point. It could be dark grey and it would still be negative pace.

The contrast between the negative space and the subject needn't be one of value. It can be colour or texture or sharpness, anything which sets a distinction of significant mass.

That's where there seems to be dispute over the definition.

But really there isn't. The basic concept is not disputed, it is that some cannot see beyond the basic illustrations of the concept. For instance this link. It shows the concept at its most basic. Some people think, then, that negative space means large areas of little to no detail. This article shows a more varied use of negative space.

In this case also, the eye actually travels to the foreground where there is more detail and a perhaps higher amount of contrast but also some leading curves/lines that take us back to the trees. And what ties the foreground to the midfield and keeps us in the image is the same relationship of detail/flat between the two as well as the diagonals. So in my mind, "negative space" doesn't really define or drive what's happening. Contrast mostly does the talking here.

I think you are thinking too rigidly. Negative space can be a formless mass, as in this image, of its shapes can be more dynamically compositional as in the first photo.

By formless, I meant more or less flat. Didn't mean to imply shapeless.

This last one doesn't have negative space. Both the foreground structure and the background vista have too much of interest to recede enough to be considered negative space.

It is simple. The positive space is that which the eye is drawn tow and the negative is that which, by its uniformity and contrast, pushes the eye away.

Disagree there - the eye is typically drawn first to the area of greatest contrast. And if you've designed an image well, the eye will go to where you want it to go and that also happens through various means.

They eye can be drawn by many elements. Greatest contrast exists at every point of the riverbank in the first image, is the eye drawn to every point then? No, The eye follows the line of the river which the negative space helps define.

You're missing the point of GAC.

No, I understand the concept. Not every image has it, though. And not all those that do are effective. Take the last image in this post. The GAC would be the square of lake framed by the columns and horizon. But that weakens the image because the square is rather dead space. The point where the hills converge on the lake should be the focus, but that bright, dead square is too strong. And the metal framework too interesting. Still an interesting image, but it lacks focus.

Peter Del Veteran Member • Posts: 5,684
Re: Reminiscing

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

Here, I'm using the negative space to represent the old chap's impossible to photograph memories.

Peter Del

I like it - you have a big black space that helps define him well and makes us contemplate what he's looking at. The lighting is fantastic.

What do you think happens if some of the black space on the left get's cropped off? IE, is there something visually for you that makes the black space size ideal? (Just interested in discussing.)

And i think the interpretation is up to the viewer - it could be that he's going blind and will soon see nothing but blackness. Or it could be that he has Alzheimer's and has no memory left. I find it to be a somewhat jarring actually. The possibilities of what is going on here are all somewhat dark for me. No pun intended.

Bearing in mind the title, I don't think this works as well.

Peter Del

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Horoscope Fish
Horoscope Fish Contributing Member • Posts: 907
Re: Reminiscing
1

Peter Del wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

Here, I'm using the negative space to represent the old chap's impossible to photograph memories.

Peter Del

I like it - you have a big black space that helps define him well and makes us contemplate what he's looking at. The lighting is fantastic.

What do you think happens if some of the black space on the left get's cropped off? IE, is there something visually for you that makes the black space size ideal? (Just interested in discussing.)

And i think the interpretation is up to the viewer - it could be that he's going blind and will soon see nothing but blackness. Or it could be that he has Alzheimer's and has no memory left. I find it to be a somewhat jarring actually. The possibilities of what is going on here are all somewhat dark for me. No pun intended.

Bearing in mind the title, I don't think this works as well.

Peter Del

The vast emptiness in the original really serves to elevate the image; and rather dramatically so for me. The title, really, has no bearing on my opinion.

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stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: Reminiscing

Peter Del wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

Here, I'm using the negative space to represent the old chap's impossible to photograph memories.

Peter Del

I like it - you have a big black space that helps define him well and makes us contemplate what he's looking at. The lighting is fantastic.

What do you think happens if some of the black space on the left get's cropped off? IE, is there something visually for you that makes the black space size ideal? (Just interested in discussing.)

And i think the interpretation is up to the viewer - it could be that he's going blind and will soon see nothing but blackness. Or it could be that he has Alzheimer's and has no memory left. I find it to be a somewhat jarring actually. The possibilities of what is going on here are all somewhat dark for me. No pun intended.

Bearing in mind the title, I don't think this works as well.

Peter Del

The diagonal(s) it creates within the frame are certainly stronger.

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stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Just Tim 4 wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

So then there isn't really "negative space" as an actual or useful concept, just figure to ground or greatest contrast.

This is the part I don't understand, (or is it because I fail to communicate the idea properly?), that on forums we don't question our base assumptions or the way in which we see. We generally assume that because we see something in an image that it is an intrinsic property of an image and is therefore contained within an image and can be categorised and labelled. We also view the opinions of others and instinctively try to fit them within our own base assumptions. We try to fit new ideas into our current understanding rather then see that the concepts are actually about changing and questioning that viewpoint and understanding.

It doesn't seem to occur to some that the concept of negative space is perceptual and that it may in fact be the act of looking and seeking to apply an order to gain an understanding of what we see that creates it.

It also has nothing to do with contrast as I can just as easily use an outline drawing.

That you can't see past the object and it's reality is your shortcoming, and a common one. You see and recognise the object without questioning why you see and recognise the reality of the object in a 2D representation.

I understand that when I draw a shape I am actually creating two shapes, a positive and a negative form, even though the viewer generally only sees the one. That the relationship between the positive and negative forms reveals the shape and can be a powerful tool. I find it an incredibly useful concept in understanding the true nature of 2D representation and how people see and interpret images.

Not sure I get what you're saying in all this. Nice photos here - negative space? They seem to stray from that idea a good bit. Now you're showing a lot of other techniques.

No image must be one technique or idea.

Not advocating that.

What I'm advocating here is that negative space isn't a "thing". Rather, design techniques are and they are sometimes interpreted as "he's using negative space to do xyz" when in reality, something else is going on.

The artworld accepts negative space as a thing. Why do you think it isn't and what else do you think is going on?

I think what I mean is that focusing on the concept of negative space is misleading and doesn't really uncover what is or should be going on for the artist.

The concept is not misleading. Some people's use of the term might be, but the concept is solid. It is a tool used for composition, just as leading lines are. If you thing leading lines are misleading, then we really can't communicate on this.

I used leading lines to refer to arabesques. There are also diagonals from root grid lines that can be considered leading lines although they're not as "leading" as arabesques.

Arabesques do not need to lead

I could drop the lead wort - it's not a thing.  I only used it as a familiar hook.

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

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.

Art students create a lot of schlock due to inexperience.

Let's walk through the example photos in this post.

The banks of the river are negative space. Why? Because the relative lack of detail and the contrasting value allow the river to stand out and be a greater focus.

Depends on how you define "negative space" - I'm not certain it's always the same definition. I see a well accomplished figure to ground relationship by having detailed and interesting subject matter up against formless/void/darker subject matter. Not just that it's formless/void space but also the different tonal value.

You've just described negative space, but called it figure to ground.

I would say that it's not necessarily the same. Figure to ground relationship doesn't suggest that the space around the subject be formless and/or void.

Negative space does not have to be formless or void either.

In this one, the sky is negative space for the same reasons the banks were in the above image. The bright, featureless nature of the sky brings the tree trees into prominence.

Not all would say that negative space is formless/featureless Some teach that it's any space that is not the subject. So that is already one problem.

Negative space is not necessarily formless. It is in this image, but it is not always. Granted that negative space has no distinct border between what is and what isnt.

How/why no distinct border?

Because some people are more rigid in their mindset than others.

There are images that definitely use it, those that definitely do not. But, like all concepts, there will be disputes on the border.

But here, I see a strong area of contrast being used along with a formless background to accomplish a strong figure to ground relationship. That it is "negative space" isn't the point. It could be dark grey and it would still be negative pace.

The contrast between the negative space and the subject needn't be one of value. It can be colour or texture or sharpness, anything which sets a distinction of significant mass.

That's where there seems to be dispute over the definition.

But really there isn't. The basic concept is not disputed, it is that some cannot see beyond the basic illustrations of the concept. For instancethis link. It shows the concept at its most basic. Some people think, then, that negative space means large areas of little to no detail. This article shows a more varied use of negative space.

Yea, I would agree with you except that I don't think it's "a thing" so I'm okay to sit back and watch all the definitions roll in. Is there a standard by which this definition must be judged? Certainly neither of those articles.

In this case also, the eye actually travels to the foreground where there is more detail and a perhaps higher amount of contrast but also some leading curves/lines that take us back to the trees. And what ties the foreground to the midfield and keeps us in the image is the same relationship of detail/flat between the two as well as the diagonals. So in my mind, "negative space" doesn't really define or drive what's happening. Contrast mostly does the talking here.

I think you are thinking too rigidly. Negative space can be a formless mass, as in this image, of its shapes can be more dynamically compositional as in the first photo.

By formless, I meant more or less flat. Didn't mean to imply shapeless.

This last one doesn't have negative space. Both the foreground structure and the background vista have too much of interest to recede enough to be considered negative space.

It is simple. The positive space is that which the eye is drawn tow and the negative is that which, by its uniformity and contrast, pushes the eye away.

Disagree there - the eye is typically drawn first to the area of greatest contrast. And if you've designed an image well, the eye will go to where you want it to go and that also happens through various means.

They eye can be drawn by many elements. Greatest contrast exists at every point of the riverbank in the first image, is the eye drawn to every point then? No, The eye follows the line of the river which the negative space helps define.

You're missing the point of GAC.

No, I understand the concept. Not every image has it, though. And not all those that do are effective.

That would be true enough.

Take the last image in this post. The GAC would be the square of lake framed by the columns and horizon. But that weakens the image because the square is rather dead space.

That isn't really what makes it weak. And I would have taken the mountain outline and bright sky as the GAC. But also, squares in that orientation are generally weak and GAC doesn't always have to be where the subject is.

But to me, the image might be weak not because of GAC or negative space use but because there is very little that ties the two primary elements (the foreground structure and the mountains)  together - they have practically nothing in common. No common grid, no repetition of shapes or textures or even colors for instance, no common directional gamut etc. etc. Someone may come along and explain why I'm wrong about that.

The point where the hills converge on the lake should be the focus, but that bright, dead square is too strong.

Actually, too weak. Not able to unify, not able to draw, not able to create focus. Contrary to what many think, right angles like that are actually not strong at all and it's a very big challenge to make that work. It can't be the primary focus precisely because it is weak.

And the metal framework too interesting. Still an interesting image, but it lacks focus.

Yes, there are two very different subjects that are typically primary but are competing for our attention and nothing to keep us moving between the two like arabesques.

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lilBuddha Veteran Member • Posts: 4,376
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

They do not have to tie elements together. The basic definition is

an ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in Arabic or Moorish decoration.

They can convey movement around the image. Or not. Many of the artistic elements which inspired the term do not move one's eye around the frame and only create movement in the sense that rain on a lake does.

Still not sure what problem you have with negative space.

You say conflicting definitions. Welcome to every single bit of art terminology, though.

You say figure to ground* which is the purpose of negative space. So you get the concept, but just don't like the name?

Not trying to be snarky, but you understand art terminology and negative space is a very common term. The art world doesn't have an issue with it. Why do you?

*I'd not heard the term before. My art instructors were either more simple** or less pretentious as they merely called it the relationship between subject and background.

**They were professional fine artists, retired commercial artists and retired architects.

stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

They do not have to tie elements together. The basic definition is

No, they don't have to, but more often than not, they do. Because of what they are, our eyes naturally follow them.

an ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in Arabic or Moorish decoration.

They can convey movement around the image. Or not. Many of the artistic elements which inspired the term do not move one's eye around the frame and only create movement in the sense that rain on a lake does.

By definition, in this context, as a compositional element, arabesques do exactly that since they move us through the image.

Still not sure what problem you have with negative space.

You say conflicting definitions. Welcome to every single bit of art terminology, though.

You say figure to ground* which is the purpose of negative space. So you get the concept, but just don't like the name?

I would say that figure to ground comes first, negative space seems to be a way that people create it. You can have FGR without negative space and negative space doesn't necessarily create effective FGR.

Not trying to be snarky, but you understand art terminology and negative space is a very common term. The art world doesn't have an issue with it. Why do you?

It being what? In one day, I've seen way more definitions of it than I've seen of micro contrast. But I've not seen many people misunderstand FGR. So it's a better and more descriptive term of a real thing. I can't really say that about negative space.

And to be fair, most of the muddy confusion I find about negative space comes from photographers who think they know something about composition as in rule of thirds. Rule of thirds isn't a thing either, but photographers grab onto it like it's life itself.

*I'd not heard the term before. My art instructors were either more simple** or less pretentious as they merely called it the relationship between subject and background.

It is the relationship between foreground and background, at it's simplest. But I would say that the "ground" doesn't always have to be "back" ground although that is getting picky.

**They were professional fine artists, retired commercial artists and retired architects.

So it's pretentious to have a term for it? Is that condescending on purpose?

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Just Tim 4
Just Tim 4 Contributing Member • Posts: 709
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)
1

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Just Tim 4 wrote:

That isn't really what makes it weak. And I would have taken the mountain outline and bright sky as the GAC. But also, squares in that orientation are generally weak and GAC doesn't always have to be where the subject is.

But to me, the image might be weak not because of GAC or negative space use but because there is very little that ties the two primary elements (the foreground structure and the mountains) together - they have practically nothing in common. No common grid, no repetition of shapes or textures or even colors for instance, no common directional gamut etc. etc. Someone may come along and explain why I'm wrong about that.

And through it all we try to make an image fit into our own framework, our own set of labels by which we define and bring logic to our own images.

But what if it doesn't fit?

The first image, a classic use of *negative space* to define shape. The flow of water. It's an image of simple shapes and contrasts with simple and complementary colours.

It was a beautiful scene, balanced and harmonious, and I hope I did it justice. But is that peace and harmony really an intrinsic part of the image and the processing or is it in your memory and experience?

The second image. A little more abstract as though the top is defined by a shape outlined by negative space the bottom half is far less well delineated. In the bottom half the figure ground relationship is reversed and we have light shapes well defined against a darker and more detailed ground. It creates a little more tension between the two in my mind.

The third contains no real negative space, but place it in a thread with the title of negative space and we automatically try to fit it within that pre-assumed meaning as though we decide what the image is about by reading the title, the words, and make our judgement based on our understanding of the meaning of those words. It is a scene that doesn't fit together, one that will always have a tension between figure and ground. So why do we wish to make it harmonious and fit into a co-hesive whole? Because that is the only way to fit it within our understanding or how we think images should work? It's actually the industrial derelict of the old Torpedo Testing Station at Arrochar. It's odd and very disjointed, built on land and extending over a concrete pier into a beautiful and scenic loch. So why can't I create a disjointed feeling between the two, why does it have to conform to your logic of a whole and cohesive image?

Yep, it's a Gestalt principle, things are seen as relating to each other and sense is made by equating that relationship to real world experience. Just because you need things to conform to a logical narrative doesn't mean that images have to, it just means that you will always try to form a logical understanding of the image as a whole.

All the time we do not question our own base assumptions about how we label images and make assumptions about how they work.

But what if the key was actually contained within the reason why we make assumptions and try to label how images work? If it is not in having the correct set of pigeon-hole but in our need to have the pigeon holes to explain images?

So what is more important, being able to label, analyse the image and apply the correct terms?

Or is it in being able to understand how different visual interpretations are rooted in a visual understanding? And where will you find the root to this understanding, the handle to which you can open the door?

I'm not entirely sure I can show you the way, I'm still searching and stumbling in the dark myself. But I'm sure it can't be found in a pigeon hole under an exact label...

     

lilBuddha Veteran Member • Posts: 4,376
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

They do not have to tie elements together. The basic definition is

No, they don't have to, but more often than not, they do. Because of what they are, our eyes naturally follow them.

Not because of what they are, but because good design uses technique. You are describin technique creating good design and that is not how it works.

an ornamental design consisting of intertwined flowing lines, originally found in Arabic or Moorish decoration.

They can convey movement around the image. Or not. Many of the artistic elements which inspired the term do not move one's eye around the frame and only create movement in the sense that rain on a lake does.

By definition, in this context, as a compositional element, arabesques do exactly that since they move us through the image.

They do not have to.

Still not sure what problem you have with negative space.

You say conflicting definitions. Welcome to every single bit of art terminology, though.

You say figure to ground* which is the purpose of negative space. So you get the concept, but just don't like the name?

I would say that figure to ground comes first, negative space seems to be a way that people create it. You can have FGR without negative space and negative space doesn't necessarily create effective FGR.

Nothing "comes first". How an image comes together is the choice of the photographer. Separating the subject from the background is a choice. One that doesn't have to occur.

Negative space is a technique that typically highlights the subject, but doesn't have to.

Not trying to be snarky, but you understand art terminology and negative space is a very common term. The art world doesn't have an issue with it. Why do you?

It being what? In one day, I've seen way more definitions of it than I've seen of micro contrast. But I've not seen many people misunderstand FGR. So it's a better and more descriptive term of a real thing. I can't really say that about negative space.

Yeah, because some people here don't understand a thing, it doesn't exist? Art is the least understood subject on DPR.

And to be fair, most of the muddy confusion I find about negative space comes from photographers who think they know something about composition as in rule of thirds. Rule of thirds isn't a thing either, but photographers grab onto it like it's life itself.

The rule of thirds is most definitely a thing. What it isn't is an absolute. Like any other compositional technique, it is a guide that is often, but not always, useful.

*I'd not heard the term before. My art instructors were either more simple** or less pretentious as they merely called it the relationship between subject and background.

It is the relationship between foreground and background, at it's simplest. But I would say that the "ground" doesn't always have to be "back" ground although that is getting picky.

**They were professional fine artists, retired commercial artists and retired architects.

So it's pretentious to have a term for it? Is that condescending on purpose?

Not condescending, just accurate. There are terms in any given field that are essentially code for the in-crowd.

Goethe
Goethe Senior Member • Posts: 1,256
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)
1

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.

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.

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.

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:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/62913106

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.

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Goethe
Goethe Senior Member • Posts: 1,256
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)
1

stevo23 wrote:

SonyOB wrote:

From how I see things, nobody has a monopoly on the concept of 'negative space'.
The way Just Tim 4 sees is just as valid as yours. Of course, for communication to occur, agreeing on the word meanings is essential.
Your point of view is valid but not the only valid one there is.

To me, the Japanese idea of 'ma' is fascinating as it likens the 'negative space' to a pause in music or speech as well as a space left without visual clues in a painting that you need to fill (or otherwise relate) to the painting as a whole. 'Ma' also refers to the short pause in a bow, which adds the feeling of respect and appreciation.

I need to read more into 'ma'.

I like that you brought that in - it's wholly different place that it comes from. I too will read more into it.

If you like then then look up mono no aware, which I am fascinated by. I honestly believe the Japanese are the most woke among us.

Also, wabi-sabi.

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lilBuddha Veteran Member • Posts: 4,376
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)
1

Goethe wrote:

Also, wabi-sabi.

I'm not a fan of that. Or horseradish.

Goethe
Goethe Senior Member • Posts: 1,256
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

lilBuddha wrote:

Goethe wrote:

Also, wabi-sabi.

I'm not a fan of that. Or horseradish.

Lulz. Not wasabi.... 

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stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
...

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

They do not have to tie elements together. The basic definition is

No, they don't have to, but more often than not, they do. Because of what they are, our eyes naturally follow them.

Not because of what they are, but because good design uses technique. You are describin technique creating good design and that is not how it works.

Huh?

And to be fair, most of the muddy confusion I find about negative space comes from photographers who think they know something about composition as in rule of thirds. Rule of thirds isn't a thing either, but photographers grab onto it like it's life itself.

The rule of thirds is most definitely a thing. What it isn't is an absolute. Like any other compositional technique, it is a guide that is often, but not always, useful.

its dead and static. If/when people design to it, if they are successful, it is in spite of the rule of thirds.  Decoding the masters should yield something very different.

*I'd not heard the term before. My art instructors were either more simple** or less pretentious as they merely called it the relationship between subject and background.

It is the relationship between foreground and background, at it's simplest. But I would say that the "ground" doesn't always have to be "back" ground although that is getting picky.

**They were professional fine artists, retired commercial artists and retired architects.

So it's pretentious to have a term for it? Is that condescending on purpose?

Not condescending, just accurate. There are terms in any given field that are essentially code for the in-crowd.

Oh, okay.  But you apparently knew the “in” crowd, so what are you saying?  I have a hard time not hearing a bit of cynicism here.

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stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

Goethe wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

SonyOB wrote:

From how I see things, nobody has a monopoly on the concept of 'negative space'.
The way Just Tim 4 sees is just as valid as yours. Of course, for communication to occur, agreeing on the word meanings is essential.
Your point of view is valid but not the only valid one there is.

To me, the Japanese idea of 'ma' is fascinating as it likens the 'negative space' to a pause in music or speech as well as a space left without visual clues in a painting that you need to fill (or otherwise relate) to the painting as a whole. 'Ma' also refers to the short pause in a bow, which adds the feeling of respect and appreciation.

I need to read more into 'ma'.

I like that you brought that in - it's wholly different place that it comes from. I too will read more into it.

If you like then then look up mono no aware, which I am fascinated by. I honestly believe the Japanese are the most woke among us.

Also, wabi-sabi.

They always surprise me.  I like the way they adhere to principles and work out creativity within those concepts.

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stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: What is (and is not) "Negative Space"? (And how do you use it.)

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.

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?

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.

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:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/62913106

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.

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Peter Del Veteran Member • Posts: 5,684
Re: Reminiscing

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

Here, I'm using the negative space to represent the old chap's impossible to photograph memories.

Peter Del

I like it - you have a big black space that helps define him well and makes us contemplate what he's looking at. The lighting is fantastic.

What do you think happens if some of the black space on the left get's cropped off? IE, is there something visually for you that makes the black space size ideal? (Just interested in discussing.)

And i think the interpretation is up to the viewer - it could be that he's going blind and will soon see nothing but blackness. Or it could be that he has Alzheimer's and has no memory left. I find it to be a somewhat jarring actually. The possibilities of what is going on here are all somewhat dark for me. No pun intended.

Bearing in mind the title, I don't think this works as well.

Peter Del

The diagonal(s) it creates within the frame are certainly stronger.

Maybe, but the impact of staring into nothingness is lost.

The original is a more powerful and balanced image, IMHO, of course.

Peter Del

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lilBuddha Veteran Member • Posts: 4,376
Re: ...

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

They do not have to tie elements together. The basic definition is

No, they don't have to, but more often than not, they do. Because of what they are, our eyes naturally follow them.

Not because of what they are, but because good design uses technique. You are describin technique creating good design and that is not how it works.

Huh?

Arabesques don't lead the eye, good use of the technique does.

And to be fair, most of the muddy confusion I find about negative space comes from photographers who think they know something about composition as in rule of thirds. Rule of thirds isn't a thing either, but photographers grab onto it like it's life itself.

The rule of thirds is most definitely a thing. What it isn't is an absolute. Like any other compositional technique, it is a guide that is often, but not always, useful.

its dead and static. If/when people design to it, if they are successful, it is in spite of the rule of thirds. Decoding the masters should yield something very different.

The rule of thirds is not dead or static, some uses of it are.

*I'd not heard the term before. My art instructors were either more simple** or less pretentious as they merely called it the relationship between subject and background.

It is the relationship between foreground and background, at it's simplest. But I would say that the "ground" doesn't always have to be "back" ground although that is getting picky.

**They were professional fine artists, retired commercial artists and retired architects.

So it's pretentious to have a term for it? Is that condescending on purpose?

Not condescending, just accurate. There are terms in any given field that are essentially code for the in-crowd.

Oh, okay. But you apparently knew the “in” crowd, so what are you saying? I have a hard time not hearing a bit of cynicism here.

Cynicism ≠ condescension.

stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: ...

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

lilBuddha wrote:

, they can be chaotic. That most are not is a function of basic design and not arabesque in itself.

Chaotic in what way? They are arabesques - curves that run through an image/painting that tie elements together and create a sense of movement.

They do not have to tie elements together. The basic definition is

No, they don't have to, but more often than not, they do. Because of what they are, our eyes naturally follow them.

Not because of what they are, but because good design uses technique. You are describin technique creating good design and that is not how it works.

Huh?

Arabesques don't lead the eye, good use of the technique does.

And to be fair, most of the muddy confusion I find about negative space comes from photographers who think they know something about composition as in rule of thirds. Rule of thirds isn't a thing either, but photographers grab onto it like it's life itself.

The rule of thirds is most definitely a thing. What it isn't is an absolute. Like any other compositional technique, it is a guide that is often, but not always, useful.

its dead and static. If/when people design to it, if they are successful, it is in spite of the rule of thirds. Decoding the masters should yield something very different.

The rule of thirds is not dead or static, some uses of it are.

*I'd not heard the term before. My art instructors were either more simple** or less pretentious as they merely called it the relationship between subject and background.

It is the relationship between foreground and background, at it's simplest. But I would say that the "ground" doesn't always have to be "back" ground although that is getting picky.

**They were professional fine artists, retired commercial artists and retired architects.

So it's pretentious to have a term for it? Is that condescending on purpose?

Not condescending, just accurate. There are terms in any given field that are essentially code for the in-crowd.

Oh, okay. But you apparently knew the “in” crowd, so what are you saying? I have a hard time not hearing a bit of cynicism here.

Cynicism ≠ condescension.

No, you just said that your teachers were simple or less pretentious and just simply called it relationship between subject and background.

Unfortunately, looking at all you've said, I'll pick simple. There's more to this but you have some ideas that are holding you back.

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stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 22,712
Re: Reminiscing

Peter Del wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

stevo23 wrote:

Peter Del wrote:

Here, I'm using the negative space to represent the old chap's impossible to photograph memories.

Peter Del

I like it - you have a big black space that helps define him well and makes us contemplate what he's looking at. The lighting is fantastic.

What do you think happens if some of the black space on the left get's cropped off? IE, is there something visually for you that makes the black space size ideal? (Just interested in discussing.)

And i think the interpretation is up to the viewer - it could be that he's going blind and will soon see nothing but blackness. Or it could be that he has Alzheimer's and has no memory left. I find it to be a somewhat jarring actually. The possibilities of what is going on here are all somewhat dark for me. No pun intended.

Bearing in mind the title, I don't think this works as well.

Peter Del

The diagonal(s) it creates within the frame are certainly stronger.

Maybe, but the impact of staring into nothingness is lost.

The original is a more powerful and balanced image, IMHO, of course.

Peter Del

Isn't that how it goes? I like the cropped one much better. But I think the lighting and expression you've captured (among other things) are all fantastic. So a minor difference here doesn't distract from that.

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