Composition in photography: negative space

Daniel SiggBlog, Creativity, Film photography, Photography, Photography tipsLeave a Comment

Fog - Cloud

About fog

Let’s start with a brief science dispatch about fog. Fog is basically a cloud that touches the ground. In clouds, water vapor (=water in gas form) condenses. And tiny water droplets then hang in the air, and this is what becomes visible as fog. Interestingly, in order for fog to form, dust needs to be in the air. As a result, water vapor condenses around those microscopic solid particles.

lake fog people silhouettes

About minimalism

Minimalism means different things to different people. Here I am referring to minimalism in art, in particular in photography. Even within a minimalistic aesthetic, there are different approaches to minimalism.  One commonality to those varied approaches is a simplification of subject matter. Artists may only compose images showing part of a subject, or only just one subject. With regards to a minimalistic aesthetic in my own work, I always strive for simplifying my compositions. What has minimalism to do with fog? We’ll get to that.

architecture minneapolis minimalism black and white ilford

This image has a minimalistic aesthetic. Note the fairly significant amount of negative space around the subject (in mid-grey), but also within the subjects (the windows in mid-grey and the white areas between windows and the black area within the street light).


About negative space

Negative space is an interesting term.  According to one definition negative space is the area surrounding the (main) subject in a photograph which is left unoccupied. It is the space around the object itself that helps define the positive space (or main focus or main subject).

Negative space is a compositional element (not rule!) that can be used creatively with the “positive” space of your photography. It helps design the composition of your photograph and depending on how it is used, evokes different emotions. We’ll get to that as well. 

pier minimal trix kodak fog lake

The fog creates a big part of the negative space (to be precise, it is the lake water that transitions almost seamlessly from water to fog). The negative space here is all H20!

Minimalist compositions with negative space

So fog is indeed an interesting compositional element, and can be used as negative space in photographs.

Minimalistic photographs can (but don’t have to) have a lot of negative space. Typically more negative space than “positive space” (= main subject or main focus). Fog is a great “naturally occurring” compositional element for creating interesting “natural” negative space.

Negative space does not have to be “empty” (is there such as thing as empty space?).

grasses in the fog

Grasses (positive space) and negative space created by lake shore and fog

fog negative space harbor

Negative space created by (mostly) fog


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