Photography Tips – Negative Space in Photography
Photography Tips – Negative Space in Photography

negativity is often thought to be a bad
thing but really is it I mean if you didn’t have a negative terminal on your
battery of your car wouldn’t start in the morning you’d be late for work your
boss would sack you if they weren’t negative temperatures I wouldn’t be able
to enjoy a lovely ice-cream like this on a sunny day and if you didn’t have
negative space in photography you wouldn’t be able to enjoy pictures like
this all this all this yeah thanks so what is this negative space thing how
does it actually work and what subjects does it work for these are all questions
I get asked quite a lot well as you’ve seen in those photos just now you can
use negative space with people you can use it with landscapes you can use with
all sorts of things so probably the best thing to do is for us to go and have a
little one around and see if we can find a couple of negative space shots
somewhere a little bit quieter and I can explain how it all works here’s a lovely
piece of negative space I know you’ve got a lap stone work and you’ve got the
graphic element of the bench down here at the bottom hmm I think that works
really really well it’s a nice quiet sort of an image the stones are all sort
of higgledy-piggledy and lights changing but with the sun shining across them
you’ve got the shadows and then you’ve got the graphic square straight lines of
the bench down here so that’s a great piece of negative space we can use it by
placing someone into it or just as it is I think it would work really really well
as an image it’s a shame about this fire hydrant sign we’ve got just here but
that’s what’s photo that’s what Photoshop is for you can remove things
like that but also you could just put a person in front of it so if you were out
doing a fashion shoot type of a thing you can always put someone in front of
that or a portrait and all of a sudden you’ve lost the hydrant and you’ve just
got a nice sort of a portrait a picture and it’s quiet and it’s got space in it
now I know you’re saying but Mike you’re really really tiny in the picture we
can’t really see you but that’s the point human beings are really quite vain
our eyes are drawn to human beings and so you will look straight to me
this was an image you were going to print and put large on the wall it’ll
look absolutely fantastic because the fact that I’m small and it occupies a
big space it gives it a really quiet peaceful sort of a nature so the things
to look for are stuff like big open spaces graphic elements they work really
really well and they give you this lovely quiet peaceful sort of an image
let’s just have a quick look and see what it would look like if we cropped
this shot in tight so that I am filling the frame from sort of top to bottom see
what that would look like so even though this is still a really nice image
because of the human shape the contrast with the stone and then the graphic of
this bench it’s a much much tighter it’s much more portrait II rather than sort
of scenery ish I kind of miss the big open space even though this still looks
really rather good let’s just let it breathe again and go back ah there we go
I can breathe again I do just like this sort of empty spacious quiet sort of a
feeling I don’t even like being in a small room with the door closed so this
is a bit of me so without further ado let’s go and get a camera and go and see
if we can find some little things I’ll just talk you through how to shoot a bit
of negative space with your camera negative space isn’t just for big open
spaces such as boats on the water or a tree on a hilltop you can use it for
much smaller more delicate items as well I kind of like these little flowers
sitting here in the stonework I think they look amazing I love the little ly
lucky color going on against the sort of grey of the stone so how do we go about
it well the first thing you got to do is to find yourself some of these little
flowers that have got a bit of space around them I mean these ones aren’t
much use at all are they because they’re all sort of bummed up they’ve got other
flowers all around them lastly things driving me nuts anyway I
kind of like these ones just here you see this little clump of flowers here
they’re all on their own to fly up there there we go
these ones they’re all on their own down here we’ve got plenty of space all
around them now these flowers here they’re not going to be in
the shop because you can use your focal length a little bit longer and just kind
of crop them away there’s plenty of space there so the shot I’m thinking
about in my head isn’t a landscape view like we did down there with the bench
this is an upright shot so we’re going to have the flowers small at the bottom
and then we’re going to give them space to breathe up above and I think I’m just
going to have them fairly central but right down near the bottom with lots of
space up here so let’s go through it with the camera how do we set this shot
up we’ll think about it the first thing is do you need lots of depth of field no
of course you don’t there isn’t any depth going on here
you’ve got what the front of the flowers there and the stonework may be an inch
behind them so you only need a little tiny bit of depth of field so you don’t
need a little tiny aperture but I would go for a middle aperture if you can I’m
going to shoot this using aperture priority because I just find it so much
easier so I’ve got the camera switched on I’ve got my white balance sector well
actually sunny because it’s kind of sunny even though I’m in shade I could
put it in shady but I’d rather color correct it afterwards aperture I’m more
interested in the composition and that will then to start
give me my aperture so I can get the shutter speed so let’s have a look at my
composition and look through the camera I can just sort of move backwards and
forwards I want the lens long ish I’ve got a 60 millimeter focal length set on
a DX sensor for those of you who are going to worry about that sort of thing
just move your focal length until it looks right don’t start wearing about
the numbers too much okay that’s nice that’s nice and they come back a bit
more I think try and give it some more space here we go and that little blaze
of color against the stones going to really work okay so now I’ve looked at
that I now know that I need about a sixtieth a sorry a sixty millimeter
focal length so I’m going to need at least a sixtieth of a second shutter
speed to ensure that I don’t get camera shake and a blurry picture so looking
through the viewfinder I can see that F 5.6 I’ve got 100 if I mm 6.3 gives me an
80th I’m going to go with 6.3 that gives me an 80th of a second I’m
the shutter speed is going to be fast enough to freeze the movement of the
camera so I can get the shot nice and sharp there we go I so I have got set at
a 250 if I went down a little bit sure the image quality bit better but my
shutter speed would be a little bit slower and I don’t want that to happen
so I’m all set up and ready to take the shot so the settings are a sunny white
balance 250 iso my exposure is an 80th of a second at F 6.3 now I just kind of
move the camera around out to put it in position if I just look at it how I see
the world with my eyes there right in the middle like that it’s really boring
isn’t it so I just look at it with it in the middle and then tilt the front of
the camera up it’s this up tilt motion like that and that moves my little
flowers to the bottom I have put my single point autofocus at the bottom of
the frame so that it’s going to focus on the flowers when I press the shutter
button so I’m now lining it up single point
autofocus press the shutter there’s a little beep it’s focused squeeze the
shot and there you go it really is that simple now that’s a
nice delicate little sort of an example why don’t we go out and see if we can
find a larger more open space and I’ll talk you through one of those shots as
well we were just driving along to our final location where I wanted to show
you a final shot when I spotted that crane up on the skyline up there you
have imagine what it’s like we all on your own up on top of a tower crane it’s
a great opportunity for a little bit of negative space now you see these boat
masts they’re a little bit annoying because they’re near the bottom of the
crane so you need to think two things here one raise yourself up so that we
can make the masts appear lower and also this has to be shot while the Sun is
against the crane it’s the light that’s going to make it work so I need to get
my skates on so get higher up I’m going to climb up
on top of this bit of wall here come with me and there we go that’s better
already now what’s the shot again I don’t need
loads of depth-of-field all I need is a fairly flat depth of
field I’m gonna use a middle aperture of about f/8 I’m still using actually
priority I’m just going to slide up the shop and out the way here we go focus on
the crane and then with making little movements of the zoom to sort of crop
out the tops of the mast while the Sun is still out we put this stupid red
balloon here here we go right focus on the crane raise the
camera up a little bit and we’ve just got crane against the sky waiting for a
seagull to get out of the shot because I don’t want him in there
go away seagull there it is like that awesome that’s a really lonely up in the
sky kind of a shot maybe a crane driver feels like that I don’t know but it’s a
bit of negative space see if we can find that last shot I was on about I do seem
to like a sturdy bench don’t I this is sort of turning into the Mike likes a
sturdy bench show there’s a reason I’m here and I’ll tell you that in a minute
but first let’s just revisit a few negative space images think of a sunset
now a sunset is probably negative space in its most original form because are
you actually photographing the Sun or are you photographing the space around
it all those magical colors going on in the sky and the clouds if you didn’t
have the space around the Sun you wouldn’t be able to capture them and it
probably wouldn’t work quite so well this picture of a little girl lying on
the step of the beach hut now I could have come in much much tighter onto
Leila but then it would just have been a likeness of Leila but by giving her some
negative space and including a little bit of the structure of the beach hut
the sort of regularity of the straight lines it’s kind of confined Leila within
her own childish ideas and dreams and thoughts it’s giving her that space
which makes the picture quiet which is what Leila was being at that moment and
let’s just go back to this one again the one with the two little boats on the
water this is one of my favorite is actually the original shot which I
took looked like this now as you can see the masked in the background are a
terrible distraction I wanted this image to be a quiet
peaceful image because it was so quiet down there and I just loved the
reflection of the little boats in the water but the masks in the background
they just kind of made it noisy and it didn’t need to have the sky included so
by tilting the camera down a little bit managed to lose that noise and put the
boats at the top and now it is very very quiet and peaceful indeed it’s also
notable because of the composition the boats are at the top not the bottom I
love this picture quite a few people have said to me it’s weird because the
sky is in the wrong place that’s also another lesson to be had in the fact
that there isn’t really a right or a wrong composition there’s the one that
you like and if you like it it’s brilliant and that one’s brilliant as
far as I’m concerned so what am I doing here well the original plan was that
we’d have some sunlight going on and I was thinking about the background the
sea the sky and the bench in the foreground and I wanted to show you
another little thing with this as well but of course best laid plans of mice
and men we’ve got a bit of Merc now but never mind let’s go ahead I’m going to
set the shot up and we’ll have a look at it let’s see what’s going to happen okay
so we’ve got our shot set up we’ve got our bench we’ve got lots of empty space
so that’s the beginning isn’t it but think about where you position things I
know we’ve been through it but it doesn’t hurt to just kind of look at
this once again I think this shot will work an awful lot better if we’ve got
the bench lower in the frame now in the original idea with the Sun was out
you’ll be able to see the horizon be able to see the sea bear to see a lot
more of the sky it might just about glimpse out actually
in a minute there are a few breaks in the clouds and if it does I’m going to
have to be fast so I’ll talk you through this bit now and then hopefully we’ll
get the shot in a minute so let’s have a look at the shot again by putting the
bench lower and lining up the horizon with the seat at the bottom let’s see
what that looks like I’ll get out the way first so that you can compare it so there we go we’ve now got the
composition reset we’ve moved the bench slightly closer into the middle of the
picture which is something which you’ll probably think you’re was telling us not
to do also when you’re working with negative space it is often a lot nicer
to have something much lower down in the frame you can put it near the top like
we did with the boats excuse me that works brilliantly so what have we got
going on here we’ve got the grass down the bottom if you can see through the
murk the horizon is running just above the top of the bench probably round
about here the reason you want to be careful with things like that is if the
horizon line collides with this harsh line of the bench somehow it just
doesn’t work quite so well you need that little piece of separation to keep it
going if we have the Sun out it would be absolutely glorious because we’ve got
some lovely textures in the sky but it’s just not going to happen I don’t think
but this is good for you this will help you imagine things so if I was going to
take this picture what kind of exposure would I use and the reason I’m saying
that is because I know a lot of you would ask the correct exposure is the
one that works for where you are I can’t tell you what exposure to use because I
don’t know the light situation if the Sun was shining right now it would be a
very very different experience it would be a very very different exposure all
you need is a middle aperture because whoa there is no well there is a lot of
depth of field but if you’re a fair distance away your depth of field will
be big anyway you didn’t cite your sexual shutter speed according to the
aperture that you’ve chosen and then you set your ISO according to the shutter
speed that you get because you want to make sure your shutter speed is fast
enough that you don’t get camera shake if you’re not using a tripod these are
the building blocks of photography they kind of clunk together like Lego bricks
and by understanding what they do you can kind of build your own picture in
your head and then create your camera settings something that works really
really well when you do have a bit of a dull scene
like this is to introduce something man-made into it because it gives your
eye somewhere to look it gives you
a point of focus if you like particularly if it’s something with a
nice bright vivid color so all I can say to you is Aubry stops blowing the
blasted thing goes up right but enjoy the view you

100 thoughts on “Photography Tips – Negative Space in Photography”

  1. Stanislav Lauko says:

    This was just a masterpiece. You struggled with the damn balloon the whole time, but the end was just a grand finale. I´m very glad I found your channel and saw all your videos in past week, I learned a lot..

  2. Anton Trese says:

    i'm a huge fan Mike. thank you so much for all of your tips.

  3. Dean Dodds says:

    Hi Mike (& co), I've spent this weekend going through almost all your videos and I've learnt a lot from the last few hours than I have reading books and magazines over the last year. Thank you for time and effort putting these together, I personally very appreciative of that. I look forward to seeing more of your videos

  4. WeJo Roa says:

    some of you guys didn't understand why there was a balloon.. i got it but just can't explain.. picture speaks.. nice Mr. Mike. the balloon has its story in this video.

  5. vikram singh says:

    superb tutorial Mike, thanks a lot.

  6. Simon Tharby says:

    Man, if I was there I would definitely have punctured that ****ing balloon.

  7. eke2k7 says:

    Hi Mike. I just wanted to say thank you for your videos. You essentially taught me photography, and I'm using the skills I've got from you to help pay my way through school (aside from doing it because I love it).

    My site:

  8. Michael Flick Photography says:

    Another great Video, Mike. I love negative space pix a lot and one of the fav shots I took is with lots of negative space: I enjoyed see you fighting that balloon :-D. Thank you again for the Inspiration.

  9. Nicole Scott says:

    our art teacher taught us that negative space is drawing a picture by drawing the space around it and not actually drawing the lines of the shape you are trying to create

  10. Bryn Roberts says:


  11. Cristi Neagu says:

    That guy in the red hoodie right at the start being all "Who the hell are you talking with, mate!?"

  12. Ahmet Elhan says:

    get rid of that heart man, distracted me a lot alng the video..

  13. Graphicstodiefor says:

    that fucking baloon

  14. Ernie Tse says:

    Very useful 🙂 Thx very much !

  15. Ernie Tse says:

    yes, already share to my friends 🙂

  16. Lau Bjerno says:

    Sounds like something from science fiction: Where did Mike go? O, I'm afraid he fell through a large aperture and disappeared into negative space.

  17. Archontasius says:

    your balloon is driving me nuts

  18. Wesam Saka says:

    Let go of that damn thing

  19. itay nachum says:

    hahaha you're so funny, you remind me louise ck…one of your best videos btw

  20. Russell Middleton says:

    Blasted balloon

  21. Keltic Myst Travel says:

    I would have killed that balloon long ago, you have some amazing patients.

  22. Rob Coates says:

    Informative video, wonderfully done. And in true British tradition, the balloon just wasn't mentioned! Subtle Britannia!

  23. Tony Simons says:

    LOL, if the balloon had a personality i'd say it loved you. 🙂 Great video though, thank you!

  24. Nazmirul Hafiz says:

    brilliant video

  25. TheBadMadMan says:

    Because you are shooting on a crop sensor you need to multiply the crop factor by the focal length. THAT means a a shutter speed of 60mm * 1.5 = 90 .. Therefore 1/90th of a sec minimum recommended to avoid shake.

  26. Jim Mauch says:

    Would getting on your stomach and bringing the horizon down to the bottom of the bench work. Maybe focus stack on the grass blades.

  27. Graham Gillett says:

    Why didn't you tie that totally annoying balloon to your video setup. Very distracting.

  28. Rory Campbell says:

    Clear, concise and makes life, that bit easier. Great stuff, Mike.

  29. Justin Bae says:

    Man you are awesome

  30. Irion Da Ronin says:

    Balloon was trolling all the time, hahaha. It was funny. 🙂

  31. Jay Kallee says:

    The balloon definitely won the limelight. BTW thanks for this tutorial. That's what I will be looking at in my next photo adventure.

  32. Karl Saygan says:

    This guy makes the best videos! I am becoming addicted to them 😀

  33. HBFilms says:

    Binge watching your videos. Learning so much. Thanks!

  34. 1TheQuickstep says:

    Brilliant video! I am loving the picture with the two boats, looks stunning. Also the way you set up your video camera was amazing. I had the feeling that you were walking inside an finished still picture.

  35. Roland Rick says:

    Found this great video 4 years after you posted it. Timeless. 👍

  36. Odile Mwaro says:

    I was wondering why he held on to the balloon for so long.

  37. mguerra79 says:

    Very nice. I hope the weather had already been sunnier since then, hahaha! If not, come to Portugal. Already «blowing» hot! Regarding the last picture of the bench and the balloon, I think I would make it a vertical composition. Still considering all you mentioned, but instead of a horizontal shot, a vertical one. Too much, and I believe unneeded, lateral space. Since we're rational beings, do you agree with this view, Mike? Cheers, mate, and thank you for the content!

  38. Jackie Connell says:

    very informative and helpful for me mike,so glad i found you ,you are number one with tips and as i'm just starting one of your courses i already learned so much in such a short time,the balloon was worth the wait

  39. Dennis Braganza says:

    That annoying balloon. 😂

  40. Stephen Bray says:

    the end was a show stopped, i seen this vid eo sometime ago, only now i can understand it thanks

  41. robin punter says:

    Hi Mike, I love watching your videos, always clear and precise and easy to understand . I keep trying to practice what you teach but I never seem to get anywhere the same results.
    One question though.
    I have never used Lightroom or Photoshop and I personally don't agree with using them either (that's a separate matter) but I noticed that in the finished image the sky/sea was noticeably "bluer "
    (Enhanced in P.S.?) Do you think the photo would have still worked "naturally ".
    Cheers and Thanks once more

  42. MyName Here says:

    That yellow sign is the most interesting part of all scene.

  43. KidJV says:

    Im going to try negative space

  44. Stephen S. Peters says:

    I have learned more from watching you than any other photographer. I love your explanations

  45. Craig hawkins says:

    I loved the last photo 🎈

  46. Ana Liza Benetua says:

    Great video!Love it

  47. Gino says:

    Why does everyone become awkward as soon as they spot the camera. Haha just act casual

  48. Jess Gibb says:


  49. Luis Delgado says:

    Like always Mike. Excellent!.

  50. Dawn Simonelli says:

    Laughed so much at your antics with the ‘red balloon’. Made my day. Great video, great tutorial. The Best!

  51. Iain Geoghan says:

    I love negative space:)

  52. D says:

    I just did not enjoy that bloody balloon

  53. Jim Thornton says:

    I loved that bloody balloon. It really made the video. Especially the ending. Well done Mike.

  54. Idris Gameele says:


  55. Shabana Moona says:

    Im a 17 year old photography enthusiast with only a phone camera at the moment. Thankyou for all the tips! You earned a subscriber. Love from India!!

  56. Carol Marsh says:

    I'm surprised you didn't use that lovely, bright red balloon in any of your shots.  It might be quite nice

  57. Carol Marsh says:

    Sorry  I commented before seeing the end of the video.

  58. trippplefive says:

    i just discovered your yt channel. this was one of your best produced tutorials so far after binge watching a dozen of your videos.

    well done, sir. well done.

  59. Iain Geoghan says:

  60. Faysal Ahmed says:

    that boat picture made me push the like button… 😊😊😊

  61. Roo Baba says:

    For those two little boats at 11:33, you should've told the haters to turn their screen 180 degrees. The sky would be in the "right" place and the image would still look fine . A simple rotation can sometimes give interesting results. 🙂

  62. Patrick Bellasi says:

    Nice episode and one of the best video closing photo idea I've seen so far!

  63. Iain Geoghan says:

  64. Jojie Peczon says:

    Nice ending! I knew it! I knew that that balloon will play a role at the end.

  65. David Gleitz says:

    Kill that damn balloon!!!

  66. daffodils.Photography says:

    What was the purpose of balon at this video?

  67. J Bello says:

    Wow, thank you… negative space does make a difference for that quiet feeling😊

  68. Iain Geoghan says:

    love negative space!!

  69. michaelupton1 says:

    Why the balloon? A little distracting – after all you are the probably the best at this.

  70. michaelupton1 says:

    Sorry – should have waited until the end as far as the balloon was concerned.

  71. salah ouali says:

    Hi, Mike. I must say I have learnt a lot from your videos. Made me rethink a lot of concepts concerning photography. Never has it come to my mind empty space can be that useful for photo composition. Thank you so much for the quality work you make.

  72. Vaibhab Deokar says:

    Nice video Mike, energetic, as always. Make me thinking with Completely different view towards composition. Thanks for such a good knowledge.

  73. Scott Mathieson says:

    New to photography and sometimes struggle to find things to go and photograph. This negative space style photography, is a great perspective to inject some creativity into the brain!

  74. okokok i know says:

    I don't ever use the word, but that balloon was making the video quite cringey….

  75. Linda Solomon says:

    So enjoying your lessons❤️

  76. Колдовской Заяц says:

    The lonely bench photo with "I Love You" balloon is just stunning! Just above any "guru" level…

  77. Lawrie says:

    Never work with children, animals … or balloons!

  78. Sabri K says:

    This is a great lesson on distractions. That bloody balloon is distracting the hell out of me. But watching you battle with it is kind of entertaining. haha

  79. Martti Suomivuori says:

    'Minimalist' we used to call that. The balloon is very dada, makes me smile.

  80. frederikboving says:

    One of your best videos. Very well explained!

  81. st.clair mac aulay says:


  82. Elton W says:

    Nice tutorial~love it!

  83. Musab Al Rawahi says:

    really amazing and helpfull tutorial 👍

  84. Benson Stein says:

    I love you, but mate you blew it here- That yellow firebox in the bench scene, made the shot. It was essentially the only color element. 😉

  85. Benson Stein says:

    That balloon was making my blood pressure rise! 😉

  86. The O Show says:

    I had to pause the video… The balloon got the better of me 😂

  87. Andrey Elbakidze says:

    The ballon adds a bit of comedy to the show that is very good itself)

  88. Yasar says:

    Fantastic job at simplifying the concept of negative space. Oh, and the baloon idea was brilliant!

  89. Nastase Catalin says:

    Useful as always. It is a pleasure to watch your way of sharing your experience with us. Although, I am still hoping that one day you will start again showing how a smartphone can be used to tell a story as a professional camera does. I watched the older videos related to smartphones but since then the smartphone cameras reached a much higher quality. We always have with us our smartphone and sometimes we don't have the courage to use it. Best regards !

  90. MrVangassen says:

    Fkin baloon. Can't watch this struggle even if there is a baloon twist later.
    I bet the whole vid was great.

  91. Philip Keys says:

    Fantastic loved it ❤️❤️ Definitely worth the wait as the shot with the balloon🎈 was great 👍

  92. Anita Urquhart says:

    Great teaching Mike but how come the colours in your photo are so much richer than the video showed? The colours in my photos always look faded like the video.

  93. ADARSH BHAGAT says:

    That baloon is so irritating to see …wish ot was not there ruined the video totally

  94. Don Jones says:

    I never thought of negative space before. Very interesting. Are you and the balloon engaged? :>

  95. Sundeep Sembi says:

    Couldn’t watch till the end . Balloon to annoying

  96. atfie117 says:

    simply brilliant!

  97. henry koll says:

    Nice video. But…please…leave the balloon alone. It’s annoying

  98. Marijana Milenkovic says:


  99. photosbyhank says:

    Great video with good examples. I would suspect it was an American program that created the subtitles as they become more and more hilarious as the video goes on.

  100. sketchart photo says:

    the real challenge is photographing with a balloon tied to your wrist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *