Simplicity – that’s the definition of minimalist photography.
Minimalist photography is easily distinguishable from all other genres because of its extreme simplicity and directness. The only focus of the photographer is highlighting the subject using straightforward concepts and almost none to as little as possible passive information.
This niche is all about “less is more,” but its exact definition can vary from person to person. One person’s ‘least possible’ can be too much for his fellow photographer. Besides keeping things simple, there are no defined principles that everyone must follow. That’s one thing that makes minimalist photography a fun niche to explore with a wide window of creativity and visual clarity to offer.
Minimalism and minimalistic photography
If you are a boomer, generation X, or a millennial, you probably never heard about minimalistic photography before the surge of social media. Instagram and Facebook aesthetics culture raised its popularity but actually, it dates back to the 1950s. Same time when the moment of minimalism was born shortly after the end of World War II.
Minimalism is the art movement in visual art, music, and literature, characterized by simple concepts and a minimal approach to everything. Its core philosophy is “That which is less complicated is better understood.”. This movement directly inspires minimalistic photography.
Minimalist vs. Abstract photography
These two genres are often mistaken for each other. Though there are some similarities, minimalistic and abstract photography are pretty different.
Abstract photography can be a minimalist photo, but that’s not necessary. It depends upon the photographer whether he wants to keep it simple or clutter it.
Abstract photographs usually do not have an immediate association with object worlds which is rare in minimalist photography. Minimalist photographs are focused on simplifying the concept and presenting everything clearly to the viewer, whereas abstract photos are designed to conjure thoughts, ideas, and other non-physical occurrences. For example, a photographer can make a simple object totally unrecognizable and purposely complicate the theme using different techniques.
Simplicity is a must for minimalist photography, but in abstract photography, it is a choice.
Tips for Minimalist Photography:
Understand the concept of minimalism
Minimalism is the backbone of this genre of photography. Without understanding the principles of this concept, you cannot capture the true essence of minimalist photography.
First, learn what the minimalism movement was all about, its derivatives, and its object approach. Learning reductionist tendencies of this moment will help you cast aside all the unnecessary components from your minimalist photograph.
Minimalism is not a very broad or complicated process. It was just an art movement; most of the stuff you will learn about this moment is applicable and enhances your work when you will shoot.
Keep it simple
Simplicity is your goal. Make your frame the cleanest possible. Avoid using any secondary subject. There is no hard and fast rule that you cannot use secondary objects. Still, these might end up cluttering the image, diverting attention from the subject, and hence making it anything but a minimalist photograph.
The easiest way to make things as simple as possible is that whenever you are ready to shoot, look at your frame and ask yourself, “what else can I remove from this frame.” Also, look through the eye of your camera lens and observe that there is anything other than your primary object which is grabbing your attention as a viewer. If that object is removable from the frame, it is simply unnecessary in your minimalist photograph.
Draw a line between simple and boring
Simple doesn’t mean boring. In fact, simplicity is a world on its own to explore. You may have to use unorthodox ways, but still, you can add a lot of creativity to your image despite keeping it simple.
Minimalistic photography requires a careful thought process and observations to make the image appalling within the boundaries of simplicity. One way to make your work creative is by observing the work of fellow photographers of this niche. While doing this, especially look at the work which is regarded as their personal style. It will help you come across many new ideas and ways to induce creativity in your work using simple things like exposure settings, image temperature, isolation techniques, composition settings, et cetera.
While shooting, revolve your mind around achieving “appealing simplicity.”
Composition is the first element to consider after the subject.
The composition itself is made up of different elements. Changing a single element can change the look of an image. This gives photographers a wide window to make a photograph aesthetically pleasing by experimenting with composition elements. You have to do nothing by keeping your frame clean, adding as few elements as possible, and making composition your playing ground to get some.
Generally, the composition is an extensive topic. It covers the rule of thirds, rule of angles, lines, golden spiral, golden spiral, shapes, space, color, balance, harmony, movement, proximity, symmetry, etc. It is up to the photographer which elements he wants to combine for his photographer. Each element gives a unique value. As a beginner or not being a professional photographer, one cannot learn and apply all the elements, but here are some tips for better composition:
- Learn the rule of thirds. It describes the basic compositional structure of photographs.
- Use selective focus to highlight the subject of your minimalistic photograph. Always go for a single point of focus.
- Understand at least the basics of how composition ratios work. It can make your work very eye-catching. Ratios divide the frame into the key areas by using lines and curves where your eye is naturally more likely to go.
- Viewing images in thumbnail size helps to figure out if the composition of the image is balanced.
- Use post-production techniques to enhance composition, i.e., if you are not satisfied with subject placement in the frame, a simple horizontal flip can be your answer.
- Think of contrast which is something beyond colors to unlock creativity. Apply it in the form of big and small, old and new, alive and dead, hot and cold, fast and slow, etc.
Negative space is the space around the subject. Usually, it is an empty and blank area.
The ratio of negative space to the subject is an essential thing in minimalist photography. It adds the emptiness effect in photographs which directs all the focus towards the subject.
How the subject is placed, and the amount of negative space used will impact the subject directly. While it can highlight the subject and direct all focus towards it, it can also make the subject lose its prominence. For example, you want to capture a bird flying alone in the sky. You didn’t zoom in at all, and the bird appears very tiny. Your image will turn out very unappealing because the bird, the subject, appears very small, and the negative space is so dominant that it makes the subject lose its impact.
If shooting outdoors, the sky’s the best negative space. Shooting in the studio, use plain backgrounds.
Use of color
Colour is a potent tool in minimalist photography.
A little pop of color can step up the whole image without messing up with simplicity. You have often seen images like a yellow police tape with black and white background. This image format is so powerful that it instantly grabs the viewer’s attention and conveys the message. The same minimalist photograph where police tape is also in black and white is much less alluring.
Bright single colors as a subject with plain/solid backgrounds work the best. You can use all sorts of colors but neon, orange, yellow, red, and particularly more attention arresting ones.
Using shadows and highlights, extreme shadows can also bring out the color in subjects.
Use lines and shapes
The use of lines and shapes is where minimalist photography is a little overlapping with abstract photography.
Using lines, you can connect or isolate subjects or add symmetry to your images. Horizontal lines give structure to the photograph and can also direct the viewer to the photographer’s intended point of focus if used correctly. Using vertical and horizontal lines that perfectly parallel the natural edges of the photo can give a very neat/pleasant look to the photograph.
Shapes, elementary geometric shapes, are widely used in minimalist photography when photographers use abstract touch in their work. Use these shapes and build your composition around them.
Minimalist photography gives life to the phrase “less is more.”
Minimalist photography is visually soothing for viewers. For photographers, it also has a lot of fun and creative space. It offers openness of interpretation to both photographer and viewer despite not having any deeper meaning. This discipline has straightforward elements, but exploring this niche and practicing it can polish anyones’ skill as a photographer in general.