How to Use Negative Space to Give an Edge to Your iPhone Photos

Alvaro Bernedo

Negative SpaceA few weeks ago, we showed you how a simple, yet important tweak in the way you take photos with your iPhone can make a dramatic difference with the end results. This tweak by the name of the Rule of Thirds dictates that your subject needs to be placed on the upper or lower and/or on the left or right third of the screen in order to create a photo with better composition and that draws more attention.

Couple on the Beach

However, while this technique is already very useful in and on itself, it is only one side of the coin. Why, you ask? Well, it turns out that while the Rule of Thirds is all about the subject and its placement on the shot, in order to get an even more compositionally rich photo with your iPhone you will also need to take care of another important element: The negative space in every shot.

What is Negative Space and Why is it So Important for iPhone Photos?

As its name implies, the negative space in a shot is exactly the opposite of the subject, the reverse of what the Rule of Thirds focuses on. This means that instead of the subject, negative space focuses on the rest of the shot and how those elements lead the eye to offer a more balanced shot.

“Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super…
…no one will be.”

That is a quote from Syndrome, the evil guy from one of my favorite animated films, The Incredibles. It is very funny that this quote so loaded with philosophical meaning can apply so perfectly to the use of negative space in a photo.

In short, what it means for shooting photos is that if you try to make everything in your shot stand out, nothing will.

The photo below is from our previous post on the Rule of Thirds. Notice how despite being a good shot, the fact that the subjects are so far away and the sea and the background are so crisp and contrasting almost steal the spotlight from our subjects.

Couple on the Beach

If however, I remove the palm trees from the shot using the Photo app’s crop function on my iPhone and just leave the sea, its uniform color used as negative space highlights the subjects a lot better.

Couple on the Beach 2

That is why negative space is so important, because it needs to “not” stand out for your main subject to do so.

Using Negative Space on Your iPhone Photos

As you might have noticed above, one of the best ways to work with negative space on your iPhone is to use uniform colors to fill the shot. Also, having the Tap to Focus feature on my iPhone is like a godsend, since it allows me to correct at the last second.

In addition to that, always aim for your subject to work with the negative space around it by guiding your eyes to it, like the shot below where our cute white friend seems to flow into the negative space.

Octopus Shot

Know the Rules So You Can Break Them

Now that you know about both the Rule of Thirds and negative space, you can freely use your iPhone to start experimenting and most importantly, to use these rules to break the norm.

Here’s an example: Turn On the Grid on your iPhone’s camera and focus on a subject (the sky in this case), but place it right in the middle of the shot. Notice that by using the negative space around it, you can comfortably break the Rule of Thirds and end up with a stunning and dramatic photo.

Forest Negative Space

Now, stop reading this and go play around with your iPhone’s camera!

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Alvaro Bernedo

Written By

Alvaro Bernedo

Contributor at Guiding Tech