Pet Photography - Theme 'Negative Space'

August 03, 2018  •  5 Comments

As we begin the month of August, our weekly blog for pets is 'Negative Space'.  I will have to say, this is not a concept that it natural for my photographs.  I have spent so many years making sure that I "Fill the Frame" that I don't typically leave a lot of negative space.  I want you, as the viewer, to focus on my subject and ensure that my subject is big enough in the photograph such that there is no question of what the photograph is about. 

In addition to Pet Photography, I do other types of photography including stock photography.  In my work as a stock photographer, I have learned that I don't always need to fill the frame - leaving negative space within the photograph can be great if they are planning to add some text or other things to the photograph.

So what exactly is negative space?  This is space around your subject in your photograph.  Negative space provides 'breathing room' around your subject giving your eyes somewhere to 'rest' and also helps to prevent your image from being cluttered with stuff that isn't your intended subject.

Here's a very simple example. A small frog floating in a swimming pool (and a few little spots of dirt).  All negative space around this little frog - he was taking a break from swimming at the moment this photo was taken.

This week I wanted to feature our foster puppy, Rue.  However, Rue is pretty much a velcro dog to me, so it's hard for me to get great photographs of her because she is almost always touching me when she is not out playing or walking.  I'm still working on that, but after a few attempts to get some good photographs (I was willing to settle for good, not great) - I decided Ollie (her sister) might be my better model.

Unlike Rue, who has been the outgoing, "I am going to do what I want to do" from the moment we met her in September 2017 at the age of about 8 weeks - Ollie, is a pretty good model!  She did what we wanted when she was only 8 weeks old and she has always been much easier to get photographs.

I brought Ollie out to our front yard because the grass is growing such a beautiful green with the almost daily rain that we are having.  At first, I kept her leash on just to make sure she wasn't planning any escapes to run around the neighbors yards.  If you look closely, you can see a dark spot in the window behind Ollie - where she is looking.  That's Rue, she has parted the blinds and is busy barking away because she isn't out and her sister is!

Ollie (dog) looking away from the cameraOllie (dog) looking away from the cameraWhat is that behind me?

After a little while, Ollie figured out what I wanted her to do - although, I can say that I am not sure I like having dog photographs with a lot of negative space.  First, let's sit facing this way.....

Now, let's lay down showing my other side....

Ok - I'll turn my head a little bit more towards you.

And by the time I managed to click off about 50 photographs, Ollie says she is done and decides to wonder off.  Such is the life of a pet photographer - when your subject is done, so are you.

The next day, we loaded up the family (now that there are two large dogs, and two little dogs, the car is pretty full) and went to a close by park for another potential photography session.  First, I took Abby, our sweet hound mix that has some issues, but she is a great model.  The only problem is the contrast was pretty high for a black dog on this sunny morning - here's Abby in a black and white photograph which works really well since she is black and white - allowing the sky to blow out provided for a simple white background of negative space along with a little scenery.  This photograph is very high contrast, a little more so that I typically use in my photos.

Next I took Ollie up the little hill for a potential photograph.  She was very alert to the small airport across the waterway that had a number of small planes coming in for landings in the 15 minutes we were photographing (she kept looking over her shoulder). For this photograph, I used the small flash on my camera to help provide some fill light on her.  To leary to take off her harness, this is what a dog considers to be 'beautiful run free - maybe "born free" space'.

Since Ollie is low to the ground, she can be a bit difficult to catch when she runs off - and as soon as I picked up her leash to put it back on, she ran off - over to her sister and then we started the 'come' command but these two little girls were over whelmed with the potential opportunity to run and play!  After a minute or two, they came to us - life with young dogs!

For more pet photographers sharing their take on this theme, head over to visit  Kim with BARKography based in Charlotte NC and then head around the rest of the blog circle.

If you would like to book a custom pet portrait session, send an email to [email protected] or give us a call/text at 813-610-2671 in the Tampa Bay area (Florida).




Tim Evans(non-registered)
I had taken a course once on commercial photography, and I forgot all about how important negative space can be in that genre. As you pointed out, cropping too closely means less space for text and other information.

Speaking of commercial photography, all your photos are so beautiful I could see them being used as ads quite easily.
Tracy Allard(non-registered)
Cutie pie Ollie! Maybe we'll see Rue in a future post! I'm working on getting closer and filling the frame more often now as I like the results when I do!
[email protected](non-registered)
I used to have a velcro dog too, but he also listened pretty well so he was a good model. Nice use of negative space. I think Ollie missed Rue not being out with him.
Kim Hollis(non-registered)
That's so interesting to me that you tend to "fill the frame." I need to remember to do that more often!
Beautiful open space allowing for some nice use of negative space! I love the black and white image of Abby - perfect!
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