Negative Space: With Ardelle Neubert

February 23, 2018 0 Comments

Today we have the amazingly talented Ardelle Neubert with us!  She will be sharing some tips on using negative space in our photography.  Ardelle is a master at negative space, and her dynamic and thoughtful images always leave me drooling.  To say she has mastered this technique is honestly an understatement!


Hi everyone, I’m Ardelle Neubert. I am honoured to be here to discuss with you the use of negative space.

Firstly, what is negative space? In your frame, the subject is the “positive space” while the space surrounding and between the subject is the “negative space”.

Negative space or the absence of content does not mean the absence of interest for viewers. In fact, using negative space around your subject can create a much stronger more profound image. Through a photographers masterful use of negative space, viewers eyes are led to the main subject, aided by the use of other compositional and photographic elements.

As photographers, our ultimate hope is likely to communicate with viewers, engaging them and evoking their emotions. Maximizing negative space is one way to achieve this.

Why use negative space?

– Achieve simplicity in compositions.

– Adds definition to a subject.

– Creates a natural balance to the frame.

– Gives viewers eyes a place to rest, similar to a visual pause (opposite to a busy composition

where it could have a negative impact to the viewers).

– It adds an element of mystery, inviting viewers to guess as to the rest of the story.

– Can evoke emotions in viewers.

What is the first step you should do to make a good image using negative space?

Always start with the subject, you want viewers focus to be drawn to that context. Use photographic elements and compositional tools to move viewers eyes towards your subject.  Observe the areas surrounding your subject, is there enough space of void content to use as the negative space? If not, try moving and changing your point of view to find the simplest frame.

What lenses should you use?

The great thing about incorporating negative space in your frame is that you don’t have to be limited to a particular lens. You may choose to use a wide focal length, normal focal length or a long focal length, depending on the scene and your intention. Using a wide or normal focal length will obviously include much more space around your subject. But remember, that area should be void of content and it should help direct viewers eyes to your subject.

Long focal lengths simplify the scene by isolating the elements, compressing the elements, and flattening the foreground and background. As long as there is space around your subject it constitutes as “negative space”, so don’t always rule out using a longer focal length.

A trick I have learned along the way:

When you think of negative space, the first thing that comes to your mind is likely a large expanse of sky, empty field or a plain wall behind a subject. But negative space isn’t limited to a completely “empty” area. Negative space could include patterns, textures, shadowed areas between the light and dark of a scene, a singular colour, muted tones, the possibilities are numerous.

Ardelle is a lifestyle and fine art photographer in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where she lives with her husband, two boys and a big furry dog.   You can find Ardelle’s website here, and her IG feed here.  She teaches “The Mindful Approach” workshop through Clickin Moms.

Emily Hamson

I'm a mom of 4 wild boys, who photographs mostly nature (partly because they don't run away or pull faces at me like my boys do). Being behind my camera is my therapy! In 2017 I decided to embark upon a personal photography project to find more creative ways to use my camera, and the CIC was born. I love to learn anything that goes along with photography, but I really love helping others learn new techniques even more!