When photographing architecture, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is why I like details and abstracts so much, as it allows me to simplify my compositions and isolate certain features of a building. One tool I use a lot and that can really help with your composition is using negative space.
What is negative space? When framing your image, negative space is space you deliberately leave around your subject to give it some breathing room. It gives your image more minimalistic feel, usually emphasizing a specific feature of your subject.
For example, in the image above, I filled the frame with that geometric facade, giving it a busy, overwhelming feeling. In the composition below, I got closer to the building to include a large portion of the blue sky. The composition is thus more minimalistic and less chaotic, emphasizing the shapes of the facade.
Of course, the easiest way to include negative space is to include the sky in your exterior images. It works both in color and in black and white. In the image below, the white canvas helps define the jagged edge of the building. It usually works better with blue skies or blank gray skies.
It works with interiors too! Find blank walls without texture and you’ll have your negative space. In the image below, I use negative space to create a very minimal composition that focuses on those two tangential curves.
Dark shadows work well as negative space. This is why shooting in the midday sun isn’t an issue with architecture! In the image below, the negative space created by the shadow really emphasizes the curve of the building.
In this other image, I used a part of the building in the shade to frame the colorful part of the building.
Negative space doesn’t have to be completely empty. A perfectly aligned pattern can also be used. In the image below, I shot with a tilt-shift to make sure the black building’s grid would be perfectly straight, creating a negative space canvas for the colorful and curved sculpture.
It works with wider shots too, even if it’s usually harder. Here I used a huge puddle to create a reflection and add more negative space in the foreground.
Negative space is a powerful tool and I encourage you to try to incorporate it in your compositions next time you’re out shooting. It works well with architecture, but you can use it for any type of photography. Share your images in our Photofocus Flickr group!