Negative space or breathing space in a photograph is a simple flat background or open space, where there is nothing to display. It may contain some subtle texture or pattern but otherwise, this area has no important story or content to display.
Negative area is very important element, in composition of a photograph, as it actually drives the eye to main story. It gives breathing space to main subject and viewer can read the main subject without much disturbance and distractions. It has to work as a team with positive space and complement the positive space to bring out charm and importance of the main story.
In all genre of photography, this element has its role to play. It is the part of composition and when we are following rules of composition, negative area gets it position by default.
Some times, this element is used extensively, especially in an advertisement layout. When a photograph has to be used in a news paper advertisement, it has to compete with other advertisements and news articles. So in order to separate out a photograph from this cluster, lots of negative area is added. Obviously, it is going to cost as we have to pay for the space used in a news paper, but the response is much better, as it becomes more eye catching and readable.
This element is so important that if a photograph has no negative area, then in presentation, we can use a larger size of white board and paste the photograph on it. For a viewer, the white area around the photograph gives relief and he can study the main picture. Same technique is used when framing a photograph or a painting in a photo-frame.
This element of a photograph could be a part of positive space. For example, if we shoot a tight close-up of a face where no background is visible, then the whole image is positive space. However, actually eyes become center of interest and that part of the picture is the positive area, whereas other parts of the face becomes negative area.
Good example of this negative space is used in shop merchandise display, where most important or costly article is placed in a large showcase, and display is without any other article or element.
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Learn more about:
Color in photography
Contrast in photography
Form in photography
Line in photography
Pattern in photography
Perspective in photography
Shadow in photography
Shape in photography
Size in photography
Texture in photography
Tone in photography