Negative Space in Portrait Photography: OnSet ep. 245

Hey this is Daniel Norton I’m here in my studio in New York City with Erika and we’re gonna talk a little bit about kind of framing and mood, so I should think about your compositions, there’s a lot of kind of rules that we use as photographers that sometimes if you break them you can do it to kind of get great effect, and with this one I want to talk a little bit about where the subject looks in your frame, this is something that probably filmmakers do a lot more than photographers, but we’re gonna talk about kind of putting the person near the edge of the frame, and having them look at it because generally speaking if you were to tell somebody this is all your frame of a shot, you would say give the person room to breathe right? Those are kind of like breathing room where they can look. And we’re gonna play around with doing that, and not doing that, and we’re gonna change the lighting when we do it too, to kind of complement that, because everything should work together when you’re using a dramatic composition, or whatever, or opposed or whatever, you want your lighting to work with that, so we’re gonna play around with the light, and we’re gonna play around with, where Erica is in the frame, and we’re gonna see what we like, easy as that right? So I’ve got my Nikon here this is Z6, and I’m framed up horizontally because I want to leave a nice space, and we’re gonna do is first let’s start with kinda more classic, we’re gonna start with her looking, you can say where you are, but you’re gonna look off towards this direction, let me focus on you, and I’m gonna use this light here, behind this Chimera 4-foot diffusion panel is a Profoto B1X, and I have it set up on a remote channel – on channel B, yep, so this is gonna give us basically light coming from the side that she’s looking here, she wants to look towards your key-light, right, and that’s gonna give us a nice, nice wash light, it’s also gonna light the background of it. So I’m keeping her at the edge of the frame, but again she’s looking towards, into the frame, there we go, right, nice and even, this is how you might suspect that you’d do it, pretty light, you know he’s lucky, she has room if this was like on a facebook banner right, she’s looking there she’s looking at her name, whatever, in sparkly letters right of course but if we want to add a little bit more tension, a little more drama we can have her look towards the other side, so she’s gonna stay where she is in my frame, but I’m gonna have her look that way. Now if I just leave the light the way it is, actually shift your weight to the split, so you close it there we go, so if I just leave the light the way it is, which I’ll do it first, so I’m kind of lighting her from the back, so this is a big soft light, so it’s gonna wrap around, you know, it’s whatever, it’s a, it’s not that interesting. To me that kind of doesn’t work, it’s kind of like it looks like I lit her from the wrong direction, so we want to do is, in addition to have her look that way. I’m gonna switch lights, and over here I have my Chimera in my extra small box, so this is gonna give us a more direct light on her face. It’s still soft, because relative to her it’s big, but it’s gonna keep the light off the background a lot. So it’s gonna keep the background kind of a darker gray. It’s gonna add a little bit more mood, let’s take a shot like that – I’m ino TTL good, and we can see the difference here right? Not only are we creating tension with her position in the frame, we’re creating tension with the way we’re lighting her, right? They kind of work together, and that’s really important, you want things to work together, you could turn both lights on, just see what happens, let’s look towards this side, and I think we’re gonna end up with the same kind of situation right? She’s gonna be a little bit more dramatically lit, but it’s still kind of still too, too, too soft, right, too flat, doesn’t still doesn’t work, it really is the fact that we’ve got this kind of, you know, really kind of direct, there we go. Yeah, look like what you’re about to go out, and you know commit some, you’re gonna put cream in your coffee, or something, that’s a sin to some people, let me tell you right now, all right, and we will do one more that way, just kind of show no no, one more this way, she’s on them and there you’re like happy, you’re like
oh good. right, and there we go, so again you guys can see, you know here she is, she’s got room, she’s got hopes and dreams, and she’s got it you know, those kind of things….lol…. she got many hopes and dreams, you know, she said, but then in the other place, there’s no hopes and dreams, it’s all it’s all done right, she’s there right, so that’s it right, so think about using kind of unconventional things but when you do that, and you kind of break that rule, make sure that you’re consistent, with everything you do, with the way that the model is interacting with the camera, or whatever is off the frame, and also with the way you light it, so it kind of works together, so I’ll put Erica’s information in the description so you guys can follow her, make sure you follow me DanielNortonPhotographer, subscribe to Adorama TV, ring the bell now see you next time OnSet.

25 Replies to “Negative Space in Portrait Photography: OnSet ep. 245”

  1. Loving the quick clips sessions! Erica is the true professional turning into character in the blink of an eye! Thanks!

  2. Thank you so much for this.

    For years I have resolutely refused to crop my landscape format portraits to a vertical, conventional vertical portrait, shape. Many photographers and certainly camera club judges, seem to understand the only words “negative space” but completely ignore or mark down, any portraits created in this manner.

    I’ve even tried explaining, that film and tv makers do not crop the screen to a vertical portrait and leave two big black spaces either side. They make pictures that fit the screen, and that is where most of us see pictures these days.
    They use the lighting that best sets the mood for each shot.

    If you see a vertical shot on tv, it’s usually a phone grab shot, for a news reel, with either side blurred out, because that is all that was available. Taken by some bystander who did not understand that phones can actually be turned on their side.

    Maybe I should download this and take it with me wherever I go as backup.

    Thanks again


  3. I love the Daniel and Erica classes because you get to learn something awesome as usual AND you get to witness one of the most beautiful women I've ever laid eyes on. She is mesmerizing. Anyway….enough of my seeming like a creeper. Great tutorial Daniel!

  4. Interesting that you are shooting down slightly in as much as the camera is above the eyeline of your model. Care to comment?

  5. Man , I really feel that the belt buckle on your jeans is framed badly and draws my eye to what is in the context of the video, negative space . Just saying.

  6. Thanks, Daniel and Erica! I use the "give them room to breathe" idea all the time, (with animals, airplanes, birds, whatever) and it makes good visual sense.

  7. Placing your subject in a third of the frame ( rule of thirds ) is a more interesting composition than placing someone dead center. the negative space is also where the viewer puts themselves in relationship with the subject… I like Daniel's tutorials but the one thing Daniel didn't address here is headspace… or the rule of thirds. Need some space above the head …. Keep em coming Daniel.. & yes Erica is stunning…

  8. Excellent. I love negative space and in weddings when I'm a second shooter I try to capture or create such scenes but doesnt always ttranslate across well to the cleints ha. For me, it's the chance to be creative or try different compositions. I'm definately influenced by the movies, where in my mind I've screen grabbed a scene, but of course in the movie it contines to move, hence why it doesn't always work as a image but interesting to do, non the less. Thx

  9. Does not illustrate much about the negative space and the composition in general. Also, the backdrop needs to be light?

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