Life by Selena Photography
Montreal portrait & wedding photographer


The official blog of Montreal portrait and wedding photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle. Explore her signature photojournalistic style and stay up to date on her latest wedding and portrait photography projects here.

Blog 77 : Positively Negative

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Motivated by a desire to encourage people in my community in their journey as photographers, I've created a new digital community and photo club called the "Creative Potential Photo Club". In this photographic blog post I share the contributions from our fifth assignment.

This month we'll meditate on negative space. With photography, the term "positive space" is used to refer to the subject of a photograph, while the term "negative space" describes the area that surrounds the subject. Use of negative space can help bring focus to your main subject. Negative space doesn't have to mean a plain white background—bright colours, repetitive patterns, or rich textures can also be a way to use negative space in an image.

For some inspiration with animate subjects, look at the Instagram account of "This Minty Moment". For some architecture inspired inspiration, look at the "Brutal Architecture" Instagram account. For further reading, this article on the blog "Luminous Landscape" highlights several different ways to make use of negative space (edge framing, contrasting colours or textures, or the shoot up/down, to name a few). If YouTube videos help you learn, I encourage you to watch this video by "The Art of Photography".

  1. Over the next few weeks, keep an eye open to the negative space in your environment. Capture images of your environment, city or rural, that inspire you with a main subject surrounded by negative space. For an extra challenge, see if you can have an animate subject in the photo. For a double extra challenge, place yourself as that animate subject with a self-portrait.

  2. Write a paragraph reflecting on your immersion with negative space, the effect this had on your thoughts, and how these reflections emerged through your photos.


During my lunch time, I took some time to enjoy the nature near my work. I noticed that my shoes blended in with the picnic mat very well, and thought it'd be interesting to see them from above. I tried to capture my gratitude for the summer and the peacefulness.

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I visited LCBO located near Yonge and Summerhill, and learned that the store used to be the North Toronto Railway Station until 1930. I loved the variety of selections, but also appreciated its antique interior preserved with careful modern touches.

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Amongst tall blood orange coloured Aperol bottles, a short dark bottle of gin stood out. A lazy shopper must've placed it on the shelf after changing their mind about the gin.

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I went on a trip to Muskoka Lakes, and the lake was tranquil and welcoming more than ever before. I couldn't get enough of the reflections of trees, clouds, and cottages along the lake.

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Camera: iPhone 6 Plus

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I took lots of photos for this assignment and deleted most of them. Executing on the more abstract images in particular were challenging, but I enjoyed thinking about how to put the photo together. Because much of my down time in the summer is spent outside, I played with elements of sky, water, and greenery.

Camera: iPhone 8

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I captured this series of photos on a hiking excursion in the Kananaskis region of the Alberta Rocky Mountains. I was smitten by these miniature floral beauties that speckle the alpine meadow landscape. I sensed a juxtaposition: these delicate colourful jewels against the sturdy, ancient monoliths of the surrounding mountains. I feel that the negative space surrounding my floral subjects serves to bring them into focus, single them out. Perhaps treating them as portrait subjects against their negative backdrop also makes the viewer think about getting to their level—crouching down, low to the ground, to see and smell the little flowers.

Camera: Google Pixel

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Here’s the assignment from the first, second, third, and fourth months of the Creative Potential Photo Club. Each month I send out new assignments by email. If you want to join the Creative Potential Photo Club, please send me a message through my contact page or an email at lifebyselena[at]gmail[dot]com and I'll add you to the list! After the submissions are compiled, I'll post the images with the goal of fostering the digital community. This is a project of Montreal portrait photographer Selena Phillips-Boyle of Life by Selena Photography.