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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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!