Minimalist photography emphasizes the power of simplicity and stimulates imagination through simplicity as opposed to standard photography. Therefore, minimalist photography can have profound meaning if you understand its underlying principles. Successful minimalist photography can be achieved by following the simple rule of less is more. The minimal photographer transforms simplicity intro art and is a master in the craft of subtlety.
However, creating minimalist photography is as much about feeling and having an artistic sixth sense as it is about having at least a basic understanding of photography techniques. In this article, we will focus on a balanced approach to minimalist photography and we will try to use an eclectic approach on how to get started. Thus, let’s take a look at some basic principles you will need to become familiar with before you begin.
Keep it Simple
That’s why it’s called minimalist photography. It’s very easy to get carried away and want to include more elements in your minimalist photos. However, the artistic purpose of minimal photography is to say a lot using very little.
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Thus, the most important thing you have to learn in the beginning is how to experiment with simple pictures and reduce the number of elements to an absolute minimum. For instance, if your object of interest is a building, you must focus on one small part of its architecture in which you perceive the most artistic meaning, like the corner of a window or a rusty doorknob.
True minimalist photography uses the power of contrast to highlight a certain element of artistic or spiritual significance. As such, one must achieve a very strong level of composition within the photo. You can do this by spotting conspicuously strong shapes which form a contrast with the surrounding objects. Therefore, deciding what your minimalist photos will contain is equally important to deciding what you should leave out.
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The photo should focus on its subject, but must immortalize a contrast in both color, field depth, and shape for optimal effect.
Master the Colors
Use strongly contrasting colors to create a powerful artistic effect. Every color has different human feeling associated with it, many of them subconscious. Black is a bleak reminder of mortality, green underlines the omnipresence of life, and blue has a connection to transcendence. Make use of such combinations and create an incredibly expressive photo. Black and white minimalist photography is one of the most challenging and, at the same time, satisfying areas you could try!
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Also, remember that minimalism in photography does not exclude the use of some landscape elements. The contrast between the roof of a building and the sky can, thus, be a great starting point.
Related: If black and white minimalist photography sounds appealing to you, we also recommend reading our tips for black and white photography.
Use clearly defined lines to build sharp contrasts and surprising differences. Lines are a key instrument used by photographers to attract the viewer’s gaze towards the center of the photo. The contrast which lines create, alongside the opposing colors, can give a sense of sadness and nostalgia. You can do this by carefully calculating the right angle.
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The idea behind relying so closely on lines is to make the eye follow a certain path around the picture until it reaches the desired area. The journey your eyes take across the seemingly simplistic picture will trigger a type of artistic catharsis which is unique to minimalist photography.
Use Your Surroundings
To begin your journey into minimalist photography, look no further than a few meters around you. There is a good chance that you are right now surrounded by potential frames for minimalist photography. A forgotten coffee cup, a lonely book on a desk or a burnt out cigarette are all potentially great subjects.
The diligent minimalist photographer always searches for hidden contrasts, unexpected shapes, and unlikely colors. In addition, keep a camera close at all times. Who knows when the perfect frame might reveal itself? Minimalist scenes are virtually everywhere – you just need to pay attention to what’s around.
Photography is, by definition, a highly emotional form of art because it has the ability to freeze time and emotions. It thus becomes a way of escaping mortality. Capturing this with standard photography is easier, due to the wide array of frames and images which you can immortalize.
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However, in minimalist photography, the sense of stopped time and eternal memory takes a real artist to pull off. A rusty bicycle handle next to an old brick wall, for instance, is a stark reminder of a lost childhood. Consequently, the hidden theme of your minimal photography can be the ephemeral nature of what we perceive and define as happiness.
Use Pictures to Tell Stories
A really great minimalist photo doesn’t just remind us of forgotten emotions. It also hints at a greater and more complex story which unfolds beyond the picture’s edges. An old window left open hints at a once happy house now left in ruin. Thus, the main theme can be the fleetingness of youth and joy. Fully immerse yourself into such interpretations to produce a lasting emotion in your audience.
- Steve Johnson
- Publisher: Rocky Nook
- Edition no. 1 (04/13/2013)
- Paperback: 144 pages
Minimalist Photography and the Art of Less
Excellent minimalist photography always looks to capture hidden meanings. In other words, it explores how the simplest of objects can stir the deepest emotion. So, if you want to excel in minimalist photography, remember to stay in touch with your idealistic side.