Growing in popularity in recent years, minimalist photography is all about trying to tell a story with as little visual distraction as possible. It sounds really simple to achieve, but it can be a lot harder than you think, especially when trying to convey a powerful message. I’ve listed a few surefire ways to get you started.
A simple concept with big context Try saying that ten times fast! Minimalist photography relies heavily on symbolism. A plant growing out of a crack in a cement pavement, could be a comment on environmental destruction, as clichéd as that example is.
Juxtaposition also plays a big part in minimalistic photography. This is when two opposing ideas occur in the one image. Coming back to our previous example, the juxtaposition there would be the contrast between the natural and the man made.
A solid colour contrast
Minimalism works well with a clear colour contrast – the crystal clear blue of an ocean against a white sandy beach, for example. A bit of post processing is sometimes required to help create a stronger contrast.
Unwanted shades can be desaturated or removed entirely through Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop by using the saturation sliders. You may also choose to increase the saturation or vibrancy of certain colours.
Don’t feel limited to just colours however, black & white or greyscale works just as effectively. You may also choose to include simple colour patterns and geometrics. A good minimal image uses a humble but effective colour palette.
A clean, infinite background Because we want to make our visual story as simple as possible, it’s a good idea to start with an unblemished background; a sort of clean canvas if you like, especially one that is infinite. This often requires a bit of work on Photoshop to remove unwanted artefacts: marks, cracks, signs, people, trees etc.
You may choose to create this canvas yourself. It’s as easy as using a wall or building, a sheet or backdrop.
In the natural world, you’ll find that beaches, deserts, calm lakes or skies make for excellent backgrounds. Often a long exposure is used to flatten out any unwanted waves and to create a sense of eerie stillness.
A strong composition If ever there was a time that a good composition was vitally important, it’s now. The rule of thirds or golden ratio as well as rule of odds and leading lines should be considered to some degree when creating minimalist photography. Because we don’t have a lot going on in our images, subject-wise, we have to use composition to show context.
Negative space is ace when trying to add context as it shows the location, perspective and scale of your subject. Remember, it’s ok if your subject appears very small in your image. This can be quite effective actually, as it creates a feeling of isolation, much like the image below.
It’s also quite okay to use something called “incomplete entities”, or simply, people and objects that have been cropped off unexpectedly, but carefully, such as in the photo below.
Sub genres While it might be placed into a niche of its own, minimalism encompasses just about every other genre of photography; particularly landscape, architecture, street and macro. Perhaps this knowledge will encourage you to think outside of the box when shooting your favourite genres.
I’d added some more examples of minimalist photography below, to help get your creative juices bubbling.
Full of inspiration but need some photography motivation? Photoh have fortnightly photography meet-ups that are great for digging out your camera and exploring your local city. See the next one near you here.