Composition: Negative Space

by Ashley Boakye-Ansah June. 07, 2017 1684 views
Jim Zukerman's Image of Negative Space

Jim Zukerman's Image of Negative Space

Jim Zuckerman

Jim has had photo exhibitions in art galleries in Palm Springs, Delray Beach, Detroit, and Los Angeles. His fine art prints hang in dozens of private collections. Jim was a contbrutuing editor to Photographic Magazine for four decades. His image, articles, and photo features have been published in scores of books and magazines including Time-Life books, publications of the National Geographic Society etc. He is the author of 15 books in print and 10 ebooks on photography, and he teaches on-line courses on photography available through his website.

The work of Jim Zuckerman has been used for packaging, advertising and editorial layouts in more than forty countries, and his work is sold as fine art prints in Ikea and hundreds of other furniture store outlets.

Jim Zuckerman's blog he explains his passion for photography:

"My orientation to photography for the past 45 years has been to follow my heart, to shoot what I wanted. I didn't put commercial considerations first. Instead, I put my passion for photography first. This is how I remained excited about photography from the beginning until now. My greatest fear when I was young and bored with my chosen profession, and I have successfully steered clear of that danger.

Its a great time to be a photographer. Never before have we had such incredible tools to express our creativity. I'm so grateful I've been able to see and embrace the digital revolution, and i hope that photography brings you as much fulfilment in life as it does me."

1. A photo of a church bell with negative space

1. A photo of a church bell with negative space

Negative Space Definition

Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in a image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition.

Negative space is the space within, between, and around objects. For example, negative space is the area between a cup and its handle; and it is the space between the petals of a flower. It is also the space between an object and the edges of the canvas, i.e. the space around an object. The opposite of negative space is positive space.

In drawing and painting, negative spaces are actual shapes that share edges with the positive shape - the object or objects you are drawing or painting - thereby creating the outline of your subject.

Every positive shape is surrounded by negative space. It is important when composing your drawing or painting to look at both the positive and the negative shapes and then to look back and forth between them to accurately assess proportions and relationships.

Learning to draw negative shapes demands a whole new way of seeing. Regardless of what you are drawing or painting, the positive and negative shapes within the composition can be regarded as abstract shapes. You need to forget the "name" of objects, and what you think you "know" about them, and simply see them as shapes among a group of interlocking abstract shapes, like a jigsaw puzzle. Some of those shapes are defined by the edge of the paper or canvas.

More and more these days, the creative world is seeing an emergence of artists creating positive spaces and shapes that, in turn, cleverly carve out shapes in negative space intentionally. And the results can be stunning.

Technique & Settings

I took this picture in Shutter Priority Mode and the settings I used to achieve this picture was using an ISO at 100. Since the weather was sunny outside, i decided to keep the light exposure at a minimum to capture the natural light. My focus was set at 5.0.

My pieces

My first photo of Negative Space presents the top of a church but only the bell is presented. I thought this building was a nice contrast against the sky and this is why I took the chance and took it. The white clouds surround the church's bell, I believed it worked perfectly because the space surrounding the church may can express the different religions that is out in this world. This picture is full of colour which can show growth through faith and the different religions that faith resembles.

2. A photo of a plane in the distance

2. A photo of a plane in the distance

My second photo displays a plane far away in the distance with a lamp illustrated in front. my original intention was to capture the plane before it flew off into the distance but the lap cam into the picture as well. I was surprised of the result yet estate to capture this beautiful negative photo. From my perspective this photo could be percieved as wishing to be on a flight way. The lamp illustrated in this photo could be the many ideas or the failed ambitions that they are leaving behind. The plane may resemble a chance they are going to take.

The settings I used for this picture was the same as before.

3. A cropped version of the church bell

3. A cropped version of the church bell

This is another picture of the church with the bell cut from the photo. You can see the patterns of the brick and the patterns of the arc clearly. The settings I used for this picture was the same as before.


Jim Zukerman's photography inspired me to take a picture like this.

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