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The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs by David duChemin

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Lesson 42. Use Your Negative Space

Negative space is the space in a photograph that is not your main subject. In the case of a portrait made with a very shallow depth of field, the negative space would be the blurred background that contrasts with your subject, better defining her and giving you something with which to create balance and/or tension. What you do with that negative space is important because, contrary to what the name implies, it is not the absence of space; it’s a compositional element that determines how freely the eye moves about the image, and whether the eye is given a place to rest. It’s important as well to remember that this space isn’t necessarily “empty”—it can be textured or colored, or contain details, but not so many ...

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