Space and shape work in tandem. Positive and negative space are powerful tools for creating graphic images. Positive space is the center of focus and main subject in your image. The negative space, often the background, is an important element of shape and composition that makes up the space not occupied by your main subject.
Perhaps you have seen the two-faces-and-vase example. The famous illustration shows two profiles facing one another, and the negative space between the two of them creates a vase. The negative space defines the positive space and vice versa. If you want to learn more about how this plays out in graphic design, look up “Gestalt principles” to see some examples that you won’t be able to stop staring at!
When I first saw Gregory Colbert’s project “Ashes and Snow,” which focuses on the relationship between humans and animals, I was brought to tears. I held the book in my hands and stared at each image, entranced by their hushed elegance. In this work, positive and negative space are essential compositional tools that communicate the close relationship of the subjects, and the negative space communicates a quiet vastness.
At the other extreme, Keith Haring’s graphic artwork explodes with energy and movement because of his careful use of positive and negative space. The “empty” space in many of his pieces is extremely minimal.
Gregg Segal’s series “Dreams” uses negative space and carefully selected background colors to surreal and often humorous effects. None of the images are tightly cropped or crammed in. Instead, there is intentional breathing room in the negative space. Commercial photographer Colin Anderson also utilizes negative space to create atmosphere and one-point perspective for leading lines to his subject. His compositions are often loose and purposeful.
CANON 5D MARK III
SIGMA 70–200MM 2.8 LENS AT 157MM
1/200 OF A SEC.