Understanding Minimalism in Photography

Minimalist photography

The word minimalism describes a concept that refers to a work of art that is stripped down to its most fundamental features. The minimalist movement began in the 20th century and can be found in all forms of art. The idea is to have a work of art with a minimum number of colors, shapes, textures and lines. The concept is not very easy to describe, as it involves some abstract thinking and it can be interpreted in many ways.

In photography minimalism is somehow more open to creativity. But, it is also based on the general rules of minimalism in the other forms of arts. Generally speaking, minimalistic photography can be described as the art of “less is more”. Although in this type of photography, the composition is basic, with the right framing the subject in the photograph can be emphasized very nicely. Using fewer details in the picture can actually draw the attention to the subject more easily and it can appear to be more intense to the viewer.


Photo by Drawerist

How does minimalism work in photography?

In minimalistic photography, you should choose the elements carefully, as their number should be kept to a minimum and they should also reflect something interesting and beautiful. Take this into account when making the composition and try not to include elements that can distract the viewer from your main subject. That subject will be your main point of focus and also the essence of your image, so you should take the time to make the right choices.

An example of a minimalist photograph can be an image in which the subject is a small boat in the water, or a person that occupies a small part of the frame, the rest being a plain background with little details. Simplicity is the key to minimalism in photography and you will have to think of the composition from this point of view.

How to implement minimalism in photography?

Trying to keep things simple in photography is not always an easy task to do. After you choose the elements for your photograph you should imagine your main subject in a simple and basic way and you should try different ways to frame it.

Sometimes, when you don’t know how to approach a subject, it can be a good idea to start with minimalistic photography. Many people don’t realize that you don’t really need to have something interesting to photograph to make a great picture. You can use simple things, like a stone in the sand or a log in the water, even the plainest objects can be used to achieve some wonderful shots.

Some of the greatest examples of minimalism in photography that I have seen are on David Fokos website (http://www.davidfokos.net). He has done some impressive work with an 85-year old film camera, photographing simple, but wonderful elements. The framing and the composition for his chosen subjects resulted in some remarkable pictures that can be a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to start taking minimalistic photographs.

When composing a minimalistic photo, you should make use of the rule of thirds but you should also use your imagination and try different things. The right use of colors can also help the construction of a minimalistic image. Black and white works perfectly in some cases for this type of photography, especially if you shoot landscapes. Shooting in black and white can help you achieve some great minimalistic photographs easily, but that does not mean that you cannot do the same with colors. One way to approach color minimalistic photography is to find an element that you want to photograph and to shoot it with a background having a similar color. This can result in some very interesting nuances that can add a different mood to your image. Find out what elements and color combinations can have a greater impact in your image and experiment with them.

You can also include people in your minimalistic photographs, but this can be a little more difficult than with landmarks, buildings, landscapes or simple objects. The reason why this is more difficult is that people aren’t simple subjects, a feature that makes some objects ideal for minimalistic photography. One way you can achieve good results with people in minimalist photography is to make some high contrast pictures in which the background have a minimal role in the image. For example a simple, black background would be great. The most important thing when photographing people, even in minimalistic photography, is to capture their characteristics. In this case the word “simple” should not describe the subject, only the rest of the image.

How to take minimalist photographs?

After you’ve made your choice of an appropriate subject for this type of photography you must shoot in a way that will give a minimalist feel to your photograph.

To keep the framing simple you can crop unwanted details by making use of the zoom to include or exclude elements from your composition. You can also apply cropping in a photo editing software in the post processing stage. These techniques will help give your subject a minimalistic feel. Try to emphasize the space in your frame. You can include some negative areas in your image, like a dark wall or some shadows.

Look for simple lines or shapes when composing the shot, finding clear and simple geometric shapes can always add the feel you want in a minimalist photograph.

Make use of the depth of field to focus on your subject and leave the rest of the background blurred. This can be easily done with a large aperture, but experiment before you decide if blurring the background is indeed the best option for the minimalist feel you want in your photograph.

Take your shots at different exposures and focal lengths, you may find that certain conditions work better than others and also try to find different angles for your shots.

Try to find patterns in the shapes and in their colors and shoot in a way that will make them look unified in your final image.

Experiment with all the different settings to find out what works best for your image. Remember that sometimes the phrase “less is more” is true, especially in the case of minimalistic photography and try to look at the ordinary things differently. This will help you find the minimalistic feel you want to capture in your image. Also, look at the examples from this article to get new ideas and get inspired.


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You may want to take a look at the following related posts:

1- 34 Super Examples of Minimalist Photography

2- 44 Wonderful Minimalist Photography Inspirations

Did this post inspire you to do some minimalist photography? , drop us a comment.

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