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Minimalist Photography ~ 4 Tips To Keep It Simple With A Maximum Impact

Minimalism is a very subjective concept in the art world. The Webster dictionary defines it as follows: A style or technique that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity. Some love it, others hate it, but no one seems to be indifferent. Many artists thrive in the openness of the concept, others have a problem with the lack of definition and direction. Many of us are drawn to ‘less is more’ with simple lines, geometric patterns, strong shadows, contrasting colors, lone subjects, etc. For others, deciding what to leave out of the frame to make a stronger image is a difficult exercise. Here are a few tips and examples to get you started in your quest for minimalist imagery.

©Valerie Jardin ~ Contrasting colors make for great minimalist subjects.

©Valerie Jardin ~ Bright colors make great minimalist subjects.

1. Composition

“Keep it simple” doesn’t mean “keep it boring”. Contrary to what you may think, a minimalist approach requires a lot of creativity. The use of negative space is an integral part of minimalist photography.  A well placed subject doesn’t have to be large to have a big impact.  Deciding what to leave out of the frame and create a stronger image can be challenging and often requires a lot of practice until it becomes the way you see. I recommend training yourself to make those decisions in camera instead of cropping unwanted distractions in post processing. A clever use of depth of field will also isolate your subject from the background by shooting with an aperture as wide (smallest number) as your lens will allow.

2. Textures and colors

A bright color or contrasting colors make great minimalist subjects. The same applies to textures. The viewer should be able to almost feel the texture. Sometimes it’s all about finding a creative angle to make the photograph. Don’t be afraid the experiment. Shoot straight on, shoot high or  low, work your frame until you get the shot that will speak to you.

3. Lines and geometric patterns

Strong lines make strong images. A good place to get started with minimalist photography is by paying attention to modern architecture around you. Leading lines, and other geometric shapes, can make great backdrops for minimalist pictures. Isolating a bird on a power line, if done well, can make a great minimalist shot. There are great opportunities around you all the time, you just have to learn to see them and that requires practice.

4. Telling a story

Push your minimalist photography to the next level by telling a story. Minimalist street photography showcases an interesting urban landscape with a human element. The human element, however small, becomes the focal point of the image. Yet, it’s the interesting background that draws the photographer to make the shot. Symmetry, lines, curves, shadows all play a vital part in making the photograph. Sometimes the story and the environment come together spontaneously and it’s the photographer’s job to see it and respond quickly. Other times it require a bit of patience for the right subject to walk through the frame. A minimalist approach to photography can be applied in nature as well as in an urban environment. You can practice anywhere, so get out there and open yourself to a different way of seeing with your camera!

©Valerie Jardin ~  The use of negative space is an integral part of minimalist photography.

©Valerie Jardin ~ The use of negative space is an integral part of minimalist photography.

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin ~ Using a shallow depth of field will allow you to isolate your subject from a distracting background.

©Valerie Jardin ~ You can use a minimalist approach in nature as well as in an urban environment.

©Valerie Jardin ~ You can use a minimalist approach in nature as well as in an urban environment.

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin ~ Strong lines make strong images.

©Valerie Jardin ~ Strong lines make strong images.

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin ~  The viewer should be able to almost feel the texture. Sometimes it’s all about finding a creative angle to make the photograph.

©Valerie Jardin ~ The viewer should be able to almost feel the texture. Sometimes it’s all about finding a creative angle to make the photograph.

©Valerie Jardin ~ In minimalist street photography The human element, however small, becomes the focal point of the image.

©Valerie Jardin ~ Minimalist street photography showcases an interesting urban landscape with a human element.

©Valerie Jardin ~ The human element, however small, becomes the focal point of the image.

©Valerie Jardin ~ The human element, however small, becomes the focal point of the image.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. I am pleased to be a new master of street photography at The Arcanum. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Google+.

  • http://www.guigphotography.com Guigphotography

    Terrific tips and lovely shots Valerie. I particularly like the birds on the wheel. I often like to underexpose to isolate the subject (see attached) but would definitely like to try more of the dark on light shots.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/8705838491/

  • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene Hildebrandt

    Nice article Valerie, good tips!

  • http://photobizx.com Andrew

    Love the simplicity, especially your images with the “lines”. Thanks for your article and love your images too.

  • Danny

    This has always been my style of choice.. I just had never attached a name to it.. Now I know what to call it… So often to my eye, less is more.

  • http://www.wildlifeencounters.eu Steve
  • Linda Chaplin

    As always, a helpful article, Valerie. I am practicing “seeing” like you do even if I don’t have my camera with me!

  • Jay

    Great post. Rarely do we see the photos support the writing like yours do. Keep these coming, please!

  • http://www.brillpix.com Steve Brill

    Great article and just shows that having great observational skills are so important. It’s true that ‘less is more’.

  • http://www.flickr.com/gipukan Rob Gipman

    Here is my attempt some time back, and thx 4 a great tip again :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/gipukan/8502485617/

  • http://www.kclarkphotography.etsy.com Kim

    Wonderful article and images.
    Thanks

    Kim

  • Ravinder Dang

    I’m a great believer of minimalism. Thanks for this article. I try this all the time.

  • http://www.robertomarzola.it Roberto
  • Deborah

    Great examples! It does require thoughtfulness & composition. The right balance is not easy; I shoot a lot of duds enroute to a successful image!

  • Denise Aitken

    We recently had Minimalistic as a topic for our photography club. It came about following a judge’s comment last year that many of the images displayed had too much happening – images within images and that it was confusing to the eye.

    The minimalistic topic was a challenge to many to start with, but the results displayed on club night was great and generated lots of discussion. The variety of subjects was fantastic as members had put a lot of thought into it.

    It does take practice to ‘see’ like this. If you persist, you may eventually find that many of these elements appear in your photo, without having thought about them consciously. The end result is cleaner, less complicated images.

    I love it. Thanks for the article

  • http://n/ Allen

    Hi Valarie. What a great article, I love your work and what amazing examples.

    I am not a fan of “Post Processing” so I was thrilled to read an article that doesn’t bang on about “Post Processing” amazing stuff. I will be looking at “Less is More” as a theme for some of my photos now as I really love the idea. Artists talk about the “Ability to see” as they look at a scene or whatever and I find the most challenging part of photography is “Learning To See” and the rest is easy.

  • Bill Brennan

    Very good article with excellent images.

    Bill Brennan

  • Colin Burt

    Great article, great examples. I give it a try now and then, like these,

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/67900028@N08/8591594048/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/67900028@N08/8810320521/

  • http://fragmentsde-i-realitat.blogspot.com.es/ Rosa De Cyan

    In this moment in my life, I feell my mind going in this direction. I love it.

    http://fragmentsde-i-realitat.blogspot.com.es/

    A greeting.

  • ArturoMM

    I don’t know what happens to me, I only liked the first photo, the others seemed so boring to me.

  • ArturoMM

    Correction: the photo of the stairs and the crystal squares I liked very much.

  • Peter

    Wonderful & very inspiring!

  • http://jannielynn.blogspot.com Janice Brown

    Wow. Great article and awesome examples to illustrate it. Thanks for sharing what you know so generously.

  • Ada Ivanov

    Cool pictures!

  • Paul Kelly

    At 84 years of age I still enjoy photos which are so beautiful and original. Paul

  • amy wong

    I only liked the 3rd photo. It has that wow factor. The rest were not interesting in the least. The subject matter was boring and very bland. If any of my students shot photos like these, I would tell them to delete.

  • std

    I am appalled you would say such a thing to your students, Amy Wong. Just because you don’t like a students image does not give you the right to tell them to delete. You as an instructor should be able to help them make the composition better. There is a way of dealing with a situation like that called constructive criticism.
    Yours Truly
    A Photo Student

  • Alex

    Great photos and tips. Will try to incorporate this in my photography. Resulting photos are so thought-provoking and tranquil. Thanks
    shutterbugshub.blogspot.com

  • http://gonzalobroto.blogspot.com/ Gonzalo Broto

    I find a specially appealing nature in minimalistic approaches to art, be it photography, painting, architecture or literature. To make a simple subject stand out you really have to dig deep and find what is the essence of it, and then show it. If done right, those are some of art’s most powerful manifestations, no doubt.
    gonzalobroto.blogspot.com

Some older comments

  • Janice Brown

    September 4, 2013 05:23 am

    Wow. Great article and awesome examples to illustrate it. Thanks for sharing what you know so generously.

  • Peter

    June 25, 2013 08:12 am

    Wonderful & very inspiring!

  • ArturoMM

    June 15, 2013 05:07 am

    Correction: the photo of the stairs and the crystal squares I liked very much.

  • ArturoMM

    June 15, 2013 05:05 am

    I don't know what happens to me, I only liked the first photo, the others seemed so boring to me.

  • Rosa De Cyan

    June 14, 2013 07:47 pm

    In this moment in my life, I feell my mind going in this direction. I love it.

    http://fragmentsde-i-realitat.blogspot.com.es/

    A greeting.

  • Colin Burt

    June 14, 2013 11:03 am

    Great article, great examples. I give it a try now and then, like these,

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/67900028@N08/8591594048/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/67900028@N08/8810320521/

  • Bill Brennan

    June 14, 2013 10:25 am

    Very good article with excellent images.

    Bill Brennan

  • Allen

    June 14, 2013 09:00 am

    Hi Valarie. What a great article, I love your work and what amazing examples.

    I am not a fan of "Post Processing" so I was thrilled to read an article that doesn't bang on about "Post Processing" amazing stuff. I will be looking at "Less is More" as a theme for some of my photos now as I really love the idea. Artists talk about the "Ability to see" as they look at a scene or whatever and I find the most challenging part of photography is "Learning To See" and the rest is easy.

  • Denise Aitken

    June 14, 2013 08:20 am

    We recently had Minimalistic as a topic for our photography club. It came about following a judge's comment last year that many of the images displayed had too much happening - images within images and that it was confusing to the eye.

    The minimalistic topic was a challenge to many to start with, but the results displayed on club night was great and generated lots of discussion. The variety of subjects was fantastic as members had put a lot of thought into it.

    It does take practice to 'see' like this. If you persist, you may eventually find that many of these elements appear in your photo, without having thought about them consciously. The end result is cleaner, less complicated images.

    I love it. Thanks for the article

  • Deborah

    June 12, 2013 05:11 am

    Great examples! It does require thoughtfulness & composition. The right balance is not easy; I shoot a lot of duds enroute to a successful image!

  • Roberto

    June 11, 2013 09:54 pm

    Great post.
    Here are my minimal shot
    http://www.robertomarzola.it/index.asp?categoria=Minimal&galleria=1

  • Ravinder Dang

    June 9, 2013 11:17 pm

    I'm a great believer of minimalism. Thanks for this article. I try this all the time.

  • Kim

    June 9, 2013 11:11 pm

    Wonderful article and images.
    Thanks

    Kim

  • Rob Gipman

    June 9, 2013 09:38 pm

    Here is my attempt some time back, and thx 4 a great tip again :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/gipukan/8502485617/

  • Steve Brill

    June 9, 2013 08:59 pm

    Great article and just shows that having great observational skills are so important. It's true that 'less is more'.

  • Jay

    June 9, 2013 03:12 am

    Great post. Rarely do we see the photos support the writing like yours do. Keep these coming, please!

  • Linda Chaplin

    June 9, 2013 02:34 am

    As always, a helpful article, Valerie. I am practicing "seeing" like you do even if I don't have my camera with me!

  • Steve

    June 8, 2013 05:38 pm

    Minimalist nature shot

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/African-birds/G0000XwUHH9qS0yY/I00001GvYcf_B8kQ/C0000bdEkyK_8Dzs

  • Danny

    June 8, 2013 09:33 am

    This has always been my style of choice.. I just had never attached a name to it.. Now I know what to call it... So often to my eye, less is more.

  • Andrew

    June 8, 2013 07:32 am

    Love the simplicity, especially your images with the "lines". Thanks for your article and love your images too.

  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    June 8, 2013 04:44 am

    Nice article Valerie, good tips!

  • Guigphotography

    June 8, 2013 04:19 am

    Terrific tips and lovely shots Valerie. I particularly like the birds on the wheel. I often like to underexpose to isolate the subject (see attached) but would definitely like to try more of the dark on light shots.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69604456@N07/8705838491/

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