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Negative Space: good or bad?

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Spooky is off-lineSilver Member
05 July 2013 16:05
Spooky
Photographer
Spooky
Location
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
Kimpton, Hitchin

I am a big fan of negative space in an image but at the last RPS panel meeting I attended I was chastised for my use of it in a couple of images. Now, I am not necessarily looking for a crit on the images, or a crit of the RPS, but rather any thoughts on negative space as a concept / theory.

I have also been exploring the concept with my A Level Photography students and would like to give them some different points of view, from different photographers, to discuss.

Any thoughts etc that you might have would be gratefully received.


Cheers

Spooks

||

Just because you have a library card, it doesn't make you Yoda


RGBphoto is off-lineSilver Member
05 July 2013 16:28
magpie1
Photographer

Location
United Kingdom
Tyne and Wear
Newcastle

This topic has occurred before, the term 'negative space' is almost always used incorrectly or sloppily, usually equating 'a lot of space around/ left' to being "negative space". Hopefully your research on your A level course will show this. Negative space really means that the space outside or opposite to the subject has a form in itself. Examples of negative space usually give simplified graphic demonstrations approaching optical allusions " is it 1chalice or 2 faces" or a young woman with a choker or an old hag?
Nothing at all wrong with your image, purists ( eg RPS judges! ) could pick at subject facing out of frame, but in terms of negative space they are being sloppy in terminology.


4EverYoung is off-line
05 July 2013 16:37
Midnite
Photographer
Midnite
Location
United Kingdom
Cambridgeshire
Peterborough

Hi Spooks,

I suppose it depends alot on the image, negative space and intended use.
For this image i dont find it a real problem, the image works well with the negative space.

The use of negative space in an image with a back ground, say a field of flower and a model looking into the negative space gives it the sense of a story.

With this image i could see how some might like the negative space removed as there isnt any interest in it but on another day this could be part of and advert for underwear or tattoos and the model is looking at the suppliers logo.

If this idea is your style then its your image to shoot and display how you feel it should be
I have never failed But i have discovered thousands of approches which don't work.


05 July 2013 17:31
Tansy_Blue
Model


When I've heard the term "negative space" used before, it does mean areas of an image which are filled by background or a monochrome colour, or just generally space where nothing in particular is happening; space around and between the subject. Although negative space can definitely take on interesting shapes and be the "real" subject, I didn't think that was necessary to be called negative space?

Anyway. I don't think negative space is inherently good or bad, as with pretty much any broad aesthetic concept. Some negative space assists most compositions by balancing the image, isolating the subject and focusing attention on it; no negative space can create feelings of claustrophobia and make the image seem cramped. (Which, of course, could be the point.) But too much or poorly-used negative space can make the composition seem unfinished - think about a pencil sketch isolated in the middle of a page - or just sloppy. Well, that's what I think anyway. It's definitely a powerful tool. Using it well is a great skill.

Personally I tend to like minimalist images with a lot of negative space and one bold subject right at the end, like this one:

(Matthias Haltenhof)
This image gives me such a feeling of peace and calm.

But then again my favourite painter is probably Jackson Pollock and his work has no negative space whatsoever! (Or maybe it's all negative space. OO, ART QUESTIONS.)
"The poetic, the scientific, the erotic - why should the imagination care which master it serves?" - Ian McEwan


RubyRosetta is off-line
06 July 2013 03:13
RubyRosetta
Model
RubyRosetta
Location
United Kingdom
Derbyshire


I don't know how other people would define photography itself, but I guess I see it as attempt to master composition and light. I see the use or avoidance of negative space as being a by product of these two things. For example, Tansy says that the image above gives her a 'feeling of peace and calm'. I agree that the image achieves this, but for me there is something sparse and desolate about it too. Either way, the composition of vast sky with the row of just a few trees, the vague suggestion of what might be a building in the background, and the pretty much equal ammount of space on either side of th trees: for me, this image has that perfect lighting and composition to evoke some kind of response from the viewer, and part of the composition is the clever use of negative space.

Perhaps a good method of teaching people about negative space would be to show them a series of images and ask questions about the good (or bad) use of negative space, and what they feel it adds (or takes) from this image. If you showed the above image, ask them to imagine the row of trees with only a tiny section of pale sky above, rather than the vast expanse of sky that grows darker and darker above the trees. I think many would argue that it would be a weaker and less evocative image.

I think that a good rule for creating an image it is think about whether a part of it needs to be there. It might not necessarily look bas, but equally it might not do anything for the image either.


David Heels is off-line
06 July 2013 03:43
Crippen
Photographer
Crippen
Location
United Kingdom
South Yorkshire
Sheffield

Mr. Spooky, I think you might need to calibrate your computer. On mine, I can clearly see what looks like a bad bit of cloning, on the second image. To the right of the model.


Trying to help, rather than criticise.
Dave


Andy is off-line
06 July 2013 04:35
photostore
Photographer
photostore
Location
United Kingdom
Fife
fife based, but Scotland wide

Quote from Crippen
Mr. Spooky, I think you might need to calibrate your computer. On mine, I can clearly see what looks like a bad bit of cloning, on the second image. To the right of the model. Trying to help, rather than criticise. Dave



It certainly looks like that at first glance, but i'm pretty sure its the face of a cliff ?
lets get shootin


David Heels is off-line
06 July 2013 05:24
Crippen
Photographer
Crippen
Location
United Kingdom
South Yorkshire
Sheffield

You might be right, Andy. I obviously wasn't properly awake when I first looked at it.

Opps!

Dave


Spooky is off-lineSilver Member
06 July 2013 07:31
Spooky
Photographer
Spooky
Location
United Kingdom
Hertfordshire
Kimpton, Hitchin

Hi Folks

Many thanks for your input; lot of really good thoughts here which I will read and diget further when I am at my desktop rather than on my phone.

Dave, I know what you mean but it is a cliff. There was no cloning done on this image

Spooks
Just because you have a library card, it doesn't make you Yoda


Chris Potter is off-line
06 July 2013 16:34
ChrisPotter
Photographer
ChrisPotter
Location
Europe
Germany
Cologne

I love 'negative space' if used properly. But balance is required. I find in the first image, that there is too little space above the model's head, which cancels out any effect created by the negative space to the right of her. The second image is basically perfect.

If am always skeptical of 'purists' who have problems because an image doesn't conform to a rule. I feel that they have become craftsmen - and not artists.



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