Time and again, photographers have turned to the concept of minimalism to experiment with their work and add elements of drama and boldness to their photography, incorporating the minimalist idea of “less is more”. Minimalism as a way of life emphasizes on simplifying the way you live by eliminating things you don’t need. Bringing concepts of lifestyle into photography is one of the many ways in which both amateurs who are keen to learn about photography, as well as professionals have explored the world we live in through their lens. Photography as an art is about a lot of things, one of them being your own perception of the outside world. The act of clicking a picture is 80% perception and 20% technique, and although minimalist photography is all about reducing distractions and elements in your pictures, it has a lot more to its technique than meets the eye. Here’s a simple guide to getting started on minimalist photography:
What is Minimalism in photography?
Minimalism in art, especially in photography has a lot to do with shapes, solid colors, lines and strong compositions. As a concept that wishes to convey a subject with minimal distractions in the background, it uses various techniques in order to achieve that. Artworks from the 20th century have strong minimalist influences, and the minimal use of components in the work is distinguishing factor in all of them. Minimalism in photography tends to bent towards the abstract at times, which is why some people do not find the idea appealing; more so because the subject seems isolated with no apparent direction given to the picture.
However, minimalism enthusiasts embrace the openness of minimalist photography, in that each picture has a something to say, and it each viewer will find a different meaning attached to it. Photographers who like the idea of minimalism also find it very liberating because they the shot remains rooted in real-life, with few strong elements standing out.
Minimalism and simplicity go hand in hand, and this all the more crucial when it comes to photography. And simplicity can be turned any which you want, from the most engaging photograph in the world, to something dull and passe. The essential thing to remember about simplicity in minimalism is your subject. It should be strong enough to hold the picture together and not rely on an engaging background to draw attention to itself. Moreover, keep in mind that engaging doesn’t mean big. A very small subject can be equally attractive, if clicked with the right composition, and play of colors. Try and analyze your frame before taking a shot to decide what you will take in as your subject, and what you will leave out of the frame, by means of zoom or cropping. Minimalism is also about keeping editing at a later stage minimal, hence your shot in all it’s originality should be your prime concern. Look for a variety of textures and experiment with light to bring out the best in your subject.
Composition in one sense defines your photograph, and hence it is perhaps the most influential element in your work. The right composition can add tons of impact to your shot, which is why it’s important to pay attention to it. Composition basically involves your subject, and the larger structure of the frame in which you are including it. Since your subject is the key, the space around it needs to be spaced out such that it draws focus to the main object of the photograph. Here, using the rule of thirds is helpful and can help you in placing the subject right, to keep the impact alive. Look for strong shapes such as lines or squares which are simple in nature, but can enhance the quality of a simple shot.
To ensure strong composition that brings the best out of your subject, select a depth of field by using your aperture settings to achieve a blurry background which can bring focus into the subject.
One can never emphasize enough on the role color has to play in minimalist photography. Complimentary colors add brightness to a minimalist photograph and can easily affect a viewer’s mood, ranging from bringing out negative to positive emotions. Also, since a minimalist photograph has lesser elements to catch the eye and rely on the strength of one main subject, the presence of color can add to the impact and make your shot look extremely lively. Experimentation with color can happen both with complimentary colors, as well as contrasting colors. If you do find subjects and backgrounds in the same color, it can make for an interesting shot as well. The idea of using color depends a lot on how much effort you are willing to put into exploring with your surroundings, and finding a shot that works with the lighting that is naturally available.
Minimalist photography as they say is as much about what you leave out, as you leave in. To get the right structure and focus on the subject, using your zoom options while clicking is crucial. Zoom in to the subject to cut out distractions in the background. Alternatively, zooming out can lower the effect of any distractions in the background, and give space to the entire shot. The effect of added space can make your subject look more connected to it’s surroundings and the usage of color, if done intelligently will give you more reasons to zoom out, than zoom in, so as to adequately emphasize on the contrast or complimentary colors used.
However, sometimes the zoom function may not serve the purpose of removing distractions. If your shot has unnecessary elements in it, use the crop feature in your choice of photo editing program to eliminate those elements and give the shot a the requisite focus and impact it needs.
In minimalist photography, often the subject may not be strong enough to grab and hold the attention of the viewer by itself, no matter what techniques you use. However, to add more structure to the entire shot, using lines either vertical or horizontal can make your picture look more solid in terms of composition and give it the extra edge. It’s not always possible to find a subject that will be able to hold an image on it’s own and minimalism has much to do with the simplicity of subject as with the crispness and structure of the backgrounds used.
The right texture can brighten up your image instantly and make way for a very interesting, yet adequately minimal shot. In other words, experimenting with textures can be very rewarding if you’re trying out minimalist photography. Textural shots don’t have any distinct or identifiable subject. They rely purely on the surface texture and the use of color to enhance image quality and impact. However, with the lack of a subject, the way in which the texture and color is captured is also important. The angle needs to be engaging enough to draw the viewer in, and at the same time be able to focus on the most important elements of the frame.
Look out for lines when using textures, modify the lighting to bring out more color and contrast, and try and bring a sense of touch to the shot, where the viewer can visually feel the textures shown in the picture.
Minimalist photography at one level is about having a broad minded view of the other outside world, and being open to experimentation. The elements are all there in front of us, and often go unnoticed. A good idea is to also check out samples of minimalist work in art and photography and get a hang of the various types of shots taken. It’s all about exploring what is already out there for the taking.