Tag Archives: Space

How to use negative space effectively

• Boats •

• Boats •
Picture by Mike Browne (from the video)

Composition that is not there!

The space that surrounds the subject and fills the gaps between important objects in your picture can be described as negative space. In some ways it defines the objects you see. In another way it is not really there. Instead the background is what you see.

The concept of negative space is important. The shape of your subject is created, at least in part, by the space around it. The space helps to define its character too. How much space surrounds your subject, and the type of space, all pass messages to the viewer about your shot.

Negative Space in Photography

Negative space is a strong artistic element yet it is not always obvious how to use it in your photography. Seeing negative space, and using it, takes a little practice and some ideas on how to place the elements in the shot. In the video Mike Brown shows us, despite the annoying balloon, how to use negative space and how to place your subject. He shows us how to use the balloon too – eventually.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Easy introduction to ‘visual elements’ in photographs

Look into your photograph, go deeper than it’s content.

Examine the composition of your image. Go beyond it’s immediate pictorial display. Look into the basic structure and you will be able to break your picture down into its component parts. Understanding individual “Visual Elements” in an image can help you to capture the eye of the viewer. It’s these elements that make the eye work to absorb the content of an image.

Visual elements shown in a slide show.

Image taken from the slide show below shows how the visual elements work.

What are the ‘Visual Elements’?

We make sense of the world by building a picture of it in our heads. We recognise objects in our environment because our eye/brain system is able to see and analyse the edges, contrasts, light/shadow/dark, colours and perspectives we see on and between them. Our ability to analyse these patterns gives us an understanding of the world we see.

To make an image, photographers look for strong visual elements through the lens. Then we strive to use them for the picture. A great deal of the creative work in photography is to remove content that doesn’t contribute to the point of an image. So we seek a point of view that isolates what we want to show.

Having isolated distractions the next job is to ‘see’ the subject in the ‘best possible light’. This English idiom is not just waffle (especially for photogs). It is really about using the edges, contrasts, light/shadow/dark, colours and perspectives mentioned above. Finding ways to use these effectively is what will draw the eye in our images.

The Elements of Art

My list of things we physically see is not detailed. It turns out that we can pin-point specific ‘visual elements’ in a photograph. Research in art has isolated these visual elements. They are called, by artists, “The Elements of Art”. There are seven of them…

  • Line (The path of a point, or implied path of a point, through space or over a surface.)
  • Shape (A two dimensional enclosure created by a single line – may be geometric or freeform.)
  • Form (A three dimensional object which has a ‘mass’ or ‘weight’; a shape with depth; physical width/height/depth.)
  • Space (Positive space: the subject or dominant object in the picture plane; Negative space: the background area. Space can occupy the outside, inside or surrounds in a depicted object.)
  • Value (The brightness/lightness/darkness/colour intensity.)
  • Colour (Light of particular wavelengths in the visible light spectrum.)
  • Texture (The presence of an apparent surface that would have a touch/feel character of its own.)
  • Examples – a slide show!

    Perhaps, some of my definitions above are difficult to understand. If you can put them into context it will help. Here is a short slide show by Kelly Parker. The examples really show the visual elements well. Click the bottom arrows to move back or forward on the slides.
     

    Download a Presentation Transcript of the slide show.

    Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

    Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

    Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
    See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
    See also: Profile on Google+.

    Space To Move Into… Action Needs Space

    Plausible movement needs space

    'Sunday morning drive'. Make space for the object to move into.

    'Sunday morning drive'. To make a picture with motion plausible, have somewhere for the moving object to go. Click image to view large.

    The picture above was taken one Sunday morning while out for some panning practice. The shot shows some space in front of the vehicle. The movement becomes convincing when there is space for the moving object to occupy as it progresses. The next picture, a crop of the one above looks far less convincing. It looks more like it is going to crash into the frame of the picture…
    No space to move into? Suddenly the picture looks static despite motion blur.

    No space to move into? Suddenly the picture looks static despite motion blur.


    The second picture has become static compared to the first. Cropping it appears to have taken the motion out of the picture. With no space for a moving object to move forward the way the eye sees the picture changes. Somehow it loses its character.

    In movement and action shots the space that surrounds the moving object is important. Try to provide some context. In order for the eye and brain to interpret the movement our imagination follows the implied line of the movement. Deny the eye a line of movement and that relationship disappears.

    In truly dangerous situations it is the fear of what will come next that creates the energy and fascination of the action. If you sacrifice the space in your image where the action will happen next you also sacrifice the anticipation that makes the shot. All high-stakes action shots rely on the imagination to create an atmosphere of expectation or impending doom. Look for that and bring it out in your pictures.

    All movement needs somewhere to go. Help the eye to follow an implied line that will take the moving object forward. Give the imagination somewhere for the next instant to happen. Your movement will be much more dynamic and your viewer much more involved.

    By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

    Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

    Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

    Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
    See also: Editors ‘Bio’.