Minimalist photography is an art form that can be described using the phrase ‘less is more.’ It is a style of photography characterised by its simplicity. Its composition differs in comparison to other styles of photography, as the focus is on one subject, rather than lots of visual information in the frame. The bareness of the image can be striking and powerful. If you’re interested in minimalist photography for beginners, then look no further.
In this post we will discuss the following minimalist photography ideas:
- What is minimalist photography?
- Negative space
- How much negative space is right in a minimalist photograph?
- Time of day
What is minimalist photography?
In minimal art, the artist minimises the use of colour, shapes, texture, and objects. The same is true of minimal photography. By reducing the compositional elements the photographer emphasizes the bareness of the image which can evoke an emotional response from the viewer. Viewing a minimalist photograph is a shared experience between viewer and photographer, as the viewer has increased freedom of interpretation.
Many different genres of photography can be shot in a minimalist style. Milad Safabaksh, the founder of the Minimalist Photography Awards stated ‘As an approach in photography, minimalism or minimalistic photography could be taken by the photographer in all genres. No matter whether you are a portrait, architecture, landscape, etc. photographer, minimalist photos are always an option as long as you have a minimal look toward your surroundings’.
When figuring out how to make minimalist photos, composition is key. It is important in all forms of photography, but especially minimalist photography, as there is nothing to distract the viewer. The image should be composed in a way that the eye comes to rest on the sole subject of the photo. Using the rule of thirds is always helpful in creating an interesting composition. You can turn on the gridlines in your camera settings and place your subject on one of the intersecting lines. This helps to create a harmonious composition in the image, without it being symmetrical.
Negative space is the space surrounding the subject of the photo. With other forms of photography, it can be a faux pas to have expansive negative space, but in minimalist photography, it helps bring focus to the subject. Because there is less going on in the picture, the negative space carries some weight.
Negative space is not necessarily a white, blank space. In minimalist landscape photography, the whole scenery will be presented as one vast space, for example, when capturing an ocean or mountain shot. If there is an object in the frame, the negative space can still contain some detail, such as a forest full of trees. There are plenty of interesting backgrounds that can constitute the negative space in your pictures, such as a cloudy sky, or a body of water.
Negative space could be coloured, smooth or textured. To experiment with the texture you can add grain to your photo by increasing the ISO on your camera settings.
How much negative space is right in a minimalist photograph?
You want to give space for the eye to move freely, but not lose the relevance of the subject. It comes down to your artistic discretion to decide how much negative space gives the right emphasis to your subject. Your subject doesn’t necessarily need to be far off in the distance to create the desired impact. Some great minimalist photography examples have the object closer in the shot.
How will you isolate your subject? To keep it minimal you need to make sure the subject is isolated from background distractions. This adds to the visual experience of minimalism as it allows the viewer to develop a connection with the subject.
Get experimental and move your subject until you find the right location. Changing camera perspective can be useful, as a varied angle may isolate your subject beautifully, e.g. getting low to the ground and angling your camera upwards. If all else fails, using a shallow depth of field is a useful hack. By defocusing your background you can create a detached aesthetic quality to the picture.
Time of day
To keep the negative space clean and minimal, it’s important to reduce contradicting elements such as passers-by or distracting buildings. Therefore, it can be important to consider the time of day for your shoot, depending on your location.
Minimalist photographers prefer to capture their shots early in the morning, at daybreak or at night when it’s dark. This ensures no crowds are interfering with the picture and that the overall composition remains unspoiled. The time of day also has an impact on the lighting in your photo.
Colour is another compositional element to consider in minimalist photography. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to colour vs black and white. Rather it depends on the mood you are looking to create with your photograph.
Black and white colouring is very popular in minimalist photography as it reduces distractions. It can also help to achieve a sombre atmosphere, or a striking, artistic visual. However, colours can be used tastefully in minimalist photography, too. Using a simplistic colour palette can make the image more visually enticing. Alternatively, a pop of bold colour can add an element of surprise. When using colour, make sure that the colours used are complementary, and that they don’t clash with the negative space.
Finally, in minimalist photography, there is an increased emphasis on strong contrast. Regardless of whether you decide to use black and white or colour, you need to have contrast in your photo.
If you lack contrast tonally, the picture will appear washed out, and therefore will lack visual impact.
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