Considering https://photo.stackexchange.com/a/21378/5205

I tried to bring attention to this bud by leaving a lot of space on the right, but nearly everyone told me to crop that space off. http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3606242

What I want to know is what they said is just a matter of "taste" (e.g I like black colour instead of yellow) or there is some actual composition flaw here added by the negative space?

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ All composition is "just a matter of taste". \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Mar 25, 2014 at 11:13

3 Answers 3


Ah, but you haven't left negative space, at least not in the ordinary sense. There is a lot of stuff going on at the right of the image. It may not be in sharp focus, but there are a lot of contrasting and colourful fuzzballs that, frankly, my eye finds more interesting than the bud. (I've tried, but my eye just can't find the bud first. I see the yellow and blue blobs meeting, then I spot the subject — every single time.) The poor bud is competing with yellows and blues and brighter greens and lavenders and oranges, and all it's got is a bit of a dull reddish flash and a couple of bugs to fight with.

Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with the composition geometrically, at least in terms of where in the frame the bud is placed. The problem is that the space to its right isn't empty or uniform/bland enough to ignore. It's not "negative", it's merely out of focus. If it were darker or significantly brighter or less saturated, or more uniformly coloured no matter what the tone, then you would probably have achieved what you set out to do.


I personally don't think it is a problem so much with the space to the right (though I don't think it adds anything to the image). I think it is that there is a lack of a strong subject. It's hard to relate to what is going on with the subject (presumably the bud) which has ants on it in such a way that you don't know where to focus. It's actually uncomfortable for me looking at the photo trying to find something to focus on because my eyes keep darting around and get tired because they can't identify a point of focus between the two sets of ants and the bud itself. This leads my eye to find the out of focus part behind the bud which leads in to the background.

There is just as much interesting going on in the background as there is on the extremely basic bud that isn't fully in focus and doesn't really capture the eye, so the eye wanders. It's ok to have the background you have as negative space if the object captures the eye and particularly if the object addresses the negative space, but in this case, neither of those really seems to hold true.

This is made worse by the background being more interesting than the foreground.


Composition is subjective, so there is no right or wrong answer. There are however things that people might like or dislike on average.

There is no way to answer whether this is a "good" picture without knowing what it was intended to be. Is this supposed to be a artsy picture of a bud with some ants on it for interest, something you will hand in as homework for entomology class, or something in between? If the latter, I feel reasonably comfortable saying it's not a good picture. If the former, it's all up to you.

Personally, the large space at right bothers me, which makes me feel uncomfortable with the whole picture. But, I tend to be less a fan of "negative space" unless it works with the main subject somehow. For example, if you have someone looking off into the distance, you want to show that distant scene being gazed at, although that's perhaps not "negative space" as most people use the term. There is nothing on the bud that somehow refers me over to the right, so to me the large space at right feels somewhat annoying, although I can't articulate why as well as Stan did for his perception. I don't find myself looking at the blobs, but it still bothers me.

Also, what's the story here? Is it the ants, the bud, what? The right ant bent over licking it's butt seems to be a sub-story in itself, but it doesn't fit with the rest. If this is entomology homework, than that may be totally appropriate and even the main point. Otherwise, I'd probably pick a different picture from the series where the ants are arranged differently somehow.


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