Use of negative space in Fine Art Nude Figure Study

Use of Negative Space in Photography

What is negative space?

Negative space refers to the area between or around objects in a photo. It is mainly important if you wish to get a clear visualization of shapes and sizes more effectively hence producing more composed images.

To be more precise, negative space is the area, which surrounds the main object in your photo. On the other hand, the positive space is the main object in your photo. Taking a photo in which the main objects are power lines, the negative space is the sky while the positive space is the power lines.

The negative space is important in a photo since not only defines the main object but also emphasizes it thereby drawing it to the eye. It provides the ‘breathing space’ hence giving your eyes somewhere to rest – this prevents the photo from appearing congested.

How to use the negative space  

Negative space can give your photograph an entirely opposite atmosphere than another photo of the same object. The simple explanation for this is that our brains will always have lots of ideas of how objects appear to our eyes especially in terms of size, shape, color, texture, etc. The bad news is that these ideas alter how we view a scene. Therefore, photos can look better in our minds while in reality they are not that appealing.

By using the negative space in photography we can overcome these problems. How? By ignoring the objects at the scene and focusing on the gaps between and around them. This will enable you to pay more attention to your composition hence seeing the shapes and sizes more clearly.

When you are shooting, you should always adjust your composition until the positive and negative spaces in the frame feel balanced. Don’t be mean on the amount of empty space you will be leaving out. It is not always a good idea to cram in something, which you feel is important to every inch of the photo frame.

You can always use software like Photoshop or Light-room to experiment on different types of crops. You will be amazed how small changes may give a significant change on the appearance of an image.

In addition, the negative space also leaves a very nice area, which can be filled with texts without interfering with the main object.

Importance of Negative Space 

The negative space can change the mood of an image. The mood refers to the emotion and the negative space is what creates them. The negative space can:

·      Act as a context

·      Create a sense of lightness

·      Can create airiness

·      Strengthen the positive emotions in a photograph.

·      Bring out the feelings of your main object – can be romantic or just happy.

·      Also add sad feelings like loneliness or despair.

Therefore, whichever message you wish to send out to your viewers, be it feelings or emotions, whichever story you wish to share, the negative space will play a huge role in this. When used correctly it can emphasize these aspects otherwise, everything can turn around.

In basic drawing classes students are usually told that there are three basic elements of a composition: The Frame, the positive space and negative space.

Of the three elements, the positive space is the easiest to understand since it the space occupied by your object. Contrary to that, the negative space is the one which is not occupied by the main object. I wish it were that easy to understand. The negative space is usually defined by the edges of the positive space and the frame. In other cases, the negative space may be completely bound by the positive space.

As a reminder, composition will always be best if there is a balance between the negative and positive. The frame is the main factor which controls the balance between the positive and negative space. When drawing, the frame is usually represented by the edge of the paper while in a camera it is the edge of the viewfinder. Therefore, the viewfinder is what gives the definition to our composition. Composition is therefore a skilled use of positive and negative spaces interacting with the edges of your work. It has effects which are noticeable by the viewer’s eye. You should know that the main objective of a good composition is to control your viewer’s eye. You want him or her to notice the things which are not straightforward.

Most photographers tend to put more focus on the positive space while the negative space comes just like an afterthought. From what we have discussed above, you will not neglect the negative space while shooting.

Benefits of using negative space in photos

1.     The negative space helps in molding and emphasizing the positive space. Here, you should also know that there are two kinds of negative space – the macro and micro negative spaces. The macro negative space defines the space between major elements while the latter defines space between smaller elements.

2.     It guides the viewer’s eye to where you want it to be. This way you can communicate your message effectively.

3.     It brings out the mood of the photo.

4.     In design, if there is insufficient negative space the photo might appear overcrowded and at times very complex.

How can we create a better negative space?

First, you can always make a better art with the negative space. For instance, the sky can provide a good composition when shooting from the bottom of buildings.

Secondly, you make the negative space the subject and this way you will not distract the main subject.

Third, you can use the positive space to define the negative space. Take a look at the Rubin’s vase to get a clear understanding on this.

Fourth, you can always use negative space to create logo designs.


It is always easy for us to focus on the main subject of the photograph. However, the negative space is a very powerful tool in each photo as it is the one which will bring out the core message of mood of the image.


Think of items of interest you can include in your framing of a photo other than the subject that will add to your composition or lead your viewer through the photo. As you practice this make sure that you don’t allow the items in the negative space to become to cluttered, too many objects in your photo will just confuse your audience and muddy your photo composition.  


In the example below I have used the shadow cast by Shannon’s figure to add interest to the negative space. Shannon is indeed the subject of the photo however the silhouette on the wall features her prominent curves and grabs the viewer’s eye. Shannon added emphasis to the shadow by pointing to it as well as looking over her shoulder. The viewer’s eye is lead straight to the negative part of the image.  

Just a quick final item to talk about, I have added a set from our “My Nude Year” project to my store and it is available for download. Your kind purchase makes it possible for me to continue bringing you content on a regular basis. If you enjoy my blog please considered purchasing the set.

Thank you,

JW Purdy

Diagonal Method in Fine Art Nude Photography

Diagonal Composition

What is diagonal composition?

It is a color photograph bringing out the details of an interior. A good example is where the majority of Wall’s images are displayed in a light box. Diagonal composition represents a well-balanced for dynamically intersecting parallel and diagonal lines. This is a results of viewing and framing an object from a particular angle.

History of diagonal composition

It is important to note that diagonal composition is not a contrived theory but is a discovery. Diagonal method (DM) was accidentally discovered in May 2006 by Edwin Westhoff who was a Dutch photographer and teacher. This beautiful accident occurred when he was doing research on the composition known as ‘rule of thirds’. Therefore, the diagonal composition is not derived from the Golden section of Rule of thirds.

This method of composition is very simple in application; when using it, you can bisect each 90 degree corner of the frame thereby giving you two 45 degree angles. The dividing line is called a bisection line. Most artists will often place the important details in their frames on these lines of with a deviation of 1-1.5 millimeters. This method is called diagonal composition since the lines are mathematical and they overlap the squares in the rectangles. By following the bisection lines, viewers will tend to look at the pictures just as the artist did when capturing it.

It is possible to crop the photos later in such a way that the important details are placed near to the diagonal lines. This can be easily achieved by using the crop tool called ‘Diagonal’ in Adobe Light-room or Adobe Photoshop CS6. Most people say that by using the Diagonal Composition their photography work has become a lot better. This doesn’t apply only to the composition but also to how easy the viewer immediately grasps the important parts of the picture.

Basic Steps of Applying the Diagonal Rule

In diagonal method, one side of the frame or picture is divided into two and then each half is divided into three parts. Later, the adjacent side is divided in such a way that the lines connecting the generated points will form a diagonal frame. From the rule, the important elements of the object should lie along these diagonal lines. Linear elements like roads, waterways, fences which are placed diagonally will always appear more dynamic than those which are placed horizontally.

There are 3 types of lines in the Diagonal method:

·      The horizontal line

·      The vertical line

·      The diagonal line

The above lines have their degrees of intensity. Let us address each of them:

1.    The Horizontal Line

This is the least dynamic line of the three and has the least intensity. This is simply because it is stable and secure. Naturally, the horizontal line is flat. For example, anything in nature which is in a horizontal position, like a tree trunk lying flat on the ground, is usually unshakable or solid. It won’t go anywhere.

2.    The Vertical Line

Unlike the horizontal line, the vertical line is less secure hence more dynamic. Picture a tree which is just about to topple over. This line goes up straight and down – this makes it less balanced.

3.    The Diagonal Line

Of the three lines, this is the most dynamic. Anything in nature which is in a diagonal position is usually about to topple over.

This leads us to the next topic:

Technical Explanation of Diagonal Method

Take the 35 mm photographic frame which is usually a rectangle with a 2:3 ratio. It is possible to draw two squares which overlap each other from the rectangle. After drawing the squares, you should make your diagonal line from one corner to the next.

The next step will be drawing the reciprocal line through the diagonal line. This line should be perpendicular to the diagonal line – this means it will cut the diagonal at 90 degrees angle. (You now get to know why geometry classes are taught at schools). You will notice that there are four 90 degree angles which will of course add up to 360 degrees. This implies that the important element will be around a circular region at the point of intersection.

There are three types of diagonal lines

In photography there are three different types of diagonal lines:

·      Objects which are placed diagonally

·      Actual diagonal lines

·      Diagonal lines which are created by the view point.

The last type from the list is the one which you will be most conversant with in the field of photography. For instance, instead of shooting the photo of a street in Vegas straight from the face-on point of view, you can shoot it from the side.

What makes the diagonal lines very important to photographers?

A majority of photographers use the diagonal lines so as to guide the eye of the viewer to a certain point in the frame. If you take a diagonal line and point it in the direction with a particular object, the tension which will be created draws the eye to it.

In addition, the diagonal lines created from viewpoint have a diminishing effect on a photo as they create a sense of depth in it.

Photographers will also use diagonal lines in artificial objects like constructions so as to add contrast and dynamic tension.

Diagonal lines will also add the unstable nature in some photos. For instance, when taking shots of buildings, you can always use diagonal lines to bring out the un-stability as most buildings will tend to appear stable in nature.

General Tips for Beginners

·      Always hold your camera at the main object’s level. Take some time before you start taking photos from above or below objects.

·      The main source of light should always be behind you and not between you and the object.

·      When taking a picture of a light object use a dark background and vice versa. This will reduce the flare effect on the picture.

·      Don’t be afraid of breaking photography rules.

·      In moving objects, always capture them in such a way that a lot of space is in front of them rather than behind them.


As you go through this day, be it at work or at home, look for examples of the diagonal method in everyday life. Be able to identify its presents in your worldview and as you do you will begin to train your eye to compose more compelling photos. Get in the habit of seeing things as if you were looking in the viewfinder of your camera. If you can do this at lease one day a week for an hour of so you skills will improve and you will become a better artist.


This is a powerful example of the diagonal method. In this photo of models Zinn Star and Ellen Marisa there are many lines and angles for you eye to explore however the most dominant lines fall within the diagonal method. The first and most striking line is that of model Ellen Marisa’s body. This line starts at her shoulder, which features her hand over Zinn Star’s hand. This line runs down her body through her nipple and continues to the bottom right corner of the frame. The second most prominent line is the line that travels along Zinn Star’s sight line. The line starts at Ellen’s extended leg and runs through Zinn’s ear and continues to the top left corner of the frame.