Creating Space

In photography, white space (also known as negative space or open space) can be used to create a balanced and harmonious image. It’s defined as "the space between elements in a composition." This can be an easy concept to visualize: Defocus your eyes to see the space surrounding the subject in your composition. White space is the space that doesn’t compete with the subject for your attention.

What I love most is that white space is ever changing, depending on how you look at the world and move yourself and your camera. My mind stretches with the thought that nothing is constant. With this comes comfort in knowing that everything is in relation to the edge of the frame.

There’s a certain dreaminess that can be achieved through composition in photography. It exists only as a place within the frame. And if you’re like me, negative space gives you room to breathe and to think. It comes as no surprise then that I’m drawn to white space when I look through my camera lens. It’s true—negative space can have a positive effect! As a photographer, creating open space helps me contain the chaos of the outside world. As a viewer, experiencing open space in photography draws me into the scene and keeps my attention there.

What’s in your photo is almost as important as what’s not in your photo. Open space anchors your subject; it creates more dynamic lines, which draws the eye directly to your point of focus. The absence of content doesn’t mean the absence of interest.

I love the freedom of white space and the stories it allows you to imagine while viewing a photograph. The illusion of space works well with any image, whether it creates a more playful portrait, a peaceful still life, a powerful landscape or a balanced abstract. White space lets the viewer’s mind wander.

Balance: We all seek it in our daily lives, as well as in our photography. But what does it mean? That answer is probably as individual as we all are. Maintaining balance is essential. So, how can looking at the world through our viewfinder teach us more about light and life and how to balance it all into a beautiful photographic package? Balance plays well together with white space. Balance is what makes a photograph look and feel harmonious. It’s the feeling your image evokes. Balance, composition, space and light: Each one of these elements of photography has a certain amount of value in direct relation to all the other elements. Just like us, they’re all connected. Without them the image lacks emotion, the subject falls off the page, the viewer loses interest in the subject, or the moment has passed.

All of these thoughts swirl around in my brain as I compose a single image. It’s a lot to think about! Composition is key for visual storytelling. As you put your eye to the viewfinder, the world becomes your canvas. White space can be one of the most important tools you use that helps set your photographic stage.

Tips For Creating Space

1. Try to keep your focus on only one subject and the white space that surrounds it. Avoid too many subjects in a single picture.
2. De-clutter! Only then will your subject (supported by open space) have the room it requires to evoke emotion.
3. Focus your camera on the subject, yet remain mindful of the surroundings, as well. Equal attention should be given to the background—it’s the stage on which your subject stands.
4. Space should create balance and complement the subject.
5. White space doesn’t need to be white.
6. Look for simplicity.
7. Shoot the same subject from a variety of angles. Walk around, move your feet, adjust your height, squat down—recompose the subject until you’ve eliminated as many distractions from the foreground or background as possible.
Photographer and writer Meredith Winn is a contributing editor to SHUTTER SISTERS and also can be found writing on her blog, the~spirit~of~the~river, at

Leave a Comment