Friday, December 8, 2017

Composition Week: Negative Space

For the final day of composition week, we're going to look at the opposite of yesterday's technique. Today it's the use of negative space. Negative space is the area around the subject of your piece. Unlike in graphic design, our negative space isn't necessarily empty. Let's look at a couple examples:

Thistle by Mark Becwar on

Wild Berries by Mark Becwar on

In these two examples, the negative space is the out of focus area all around the plant that's the subject of the image.The area that's out of focus helps highlight the shape and texture of the plant. We're also helped by the back lighting that serves to create an outline around the thistle, and helps the berries pop out from the background.

In the next example, an empty sky serves as the negative space.

Signal Bridge by Mark Becwar on

The blank sky doesn't distract from the small details, and indeed helps them stand out. With a busy background, the thin lines of the hand rails and ladders would be completely lost. This example also shows that there doesn't need to be something in every corner of your frame. In fact, the left-most third of this image is entirely blank, save for the slight gradient from the sky.

One last image to demonstrate negative space. In this case a silhouetted hill at sunrise.

Sunrise Hill by Mark Becwar on

The black band at the bottom of the image helps to highlight and counterbalance the sky. It pushes the eye up towards the top of the image, towards the texture of the leaves on the trees, and the colors of the clouds.

When considering composition, remember that the rules are just guidelines. They can help you get started composing images, but, in the end, they are just tools for you to use. When you break one of the rules of composition, try to consider how breaking that rule helps your image. (Whatever media you're working in, be it painting, drawing, or photography)

Well that'll do it for composition week. If you liked it, let me know. I've got about 30 more composition techniques in my topic list, and I'd be happy to do this again*. I do reserve the right to revisit any of these in the future, partially because I'm half senile and can't remember what I did yesterday, but also because there's almost always more you can say about the topic. We'll see you next week for the return of Mediocre Monday.

* I'll gladly do this again, but it's a lot of work, so it will be a little while before I'm up to doing it.

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