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What Does It Take to Make a Minimalist Photo?

Minimalist photography is all about removing all the distractions so the eye focuses solely on the subject. But what does it take to make a minimalist photo?

I'm sure you've heard the saying "less is more." Achieving a minimalist image is not as complicated as it sounds, but it takes careful consideration in choosing the subject and sometimes, a little nudge in post-processing.

Minimalism is quite subjective, as most genres are, but generally, if you can manage to keep the eye focused on one subject without being distracted, then you are successful in creating a minimalist image. The following tips apply to landscape and fine art images, but the general thought is also applicable in most genres of photography.

1. Keep Things Simple

This simply means that you will have to frame a certain subject at an angle with lesser distractions or modify it in post-processing. Granted that there are subjects that can be difficult to isolate, so being creative and taking a photo of it at a different angle can change the way the image feels. Make sure that there are no distracting elements or other objects in the scene that will take the attention away from your main subject.

In the image below, it's quite difficult to see the subject because of all the other elements in the image. 

Can you tell which one is the subject at first glance?

The image below has lesser elements so your eyes are led to the subject quite easily.

This photo shows the subject distinctly

2. Use Negative Space

This is the most common advice you'll get when shooting minimalist images. Negative space may seem "dull" or "uninteresting," but it sets up the stage for the main subject to stand out. Don't think of negative space as something to avoid in photography, but rather, look at it as a canvas you can paint your picture on. When used correctly, it can help your image attract attention.

3. Shoot With Clear Skies or a Clear Background

Taking a photo of a subject with clear skies and background gives the feel of serenity and calmness. It's also a precursor for creating darker and lighter parts in the image to lead the viewer further into the photo where the tones are the lightest. Keeping the tones surrounding the subject light makes it much more noticeable.

Creating an image with clear skies give a much more solemn look for the image as opposed to an image with moving clouds. However, if the weather is not ideal, practice removing the sky in post.

4. Shoot in Black and White or Minimal Colors

What better way to showcase the simplicity of an image than to edit the shot in black and white for more drama. You can also mute the colors to produce a lighter, more soothing feel for the image. There's a certain dramatic feel when you display an image using minimal colors. It does not scream vibrancy like colorful images, but it doesn't show dullness either. It creates a different realm altogether for the viewer.

5. Take Advantage of Vanishing Points for Added Drama and Mystery

One way of taking minimalist images is to give the viewer a direction to look at by using leading lines, and one of the best ways to do this creatively is to use subjects that lead to a vanishing point. Vanishing points are a good way to create drama and mystery in an image. The leading lines help direct the viewer to the point of interest and the vanishing point helps create an endpoint for the viewer.

Conclusion

Creating minimalist images is quite simple, but the shot should complement the post-processing involved to create a more serene feel for the image. Check out the video above and try these tips on your next shoot!

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11 Comments

Adriano Brigante's picture

Very good advices. I very often use a minimalistic approach in my photography, even if it's not the ultimate goal. Sometimes it's just framing things to simply minimize distracting elements, and sometimes it's a conscious effort to get a very minimalist picture.

Marvin Grey's picture

Great photos! Yes, usually the framing gets you a good enough image already. Just observing the environment can already give you hints on how to shoot the scene.

Charles Mercier's picture

Quite simple but very difficult to do well.
Excellent photos in the article!

Marvin Grey's picture

Very true! But like all things, it gets easier and you get used to it eventually. Thanks for your kind words! I hope you enjoyed the article and the video as much as the photos!

Benjamin Smith's picture

What a great description of minimalist photography! I have tried this to varying degrees in my shooting but didn't really realize I was doing "Minimalism". Your article and video gave me a simple but very affective framework to shoot within. I will definitely apply these suggestions next time I shoot. Thanks Marvin. Some examples below. Could be more minimal I suppose...

Adriano Brigante's picture

The first one could be very minimalist if you simply crop it to remove the sky. Snow and fog are great for creating negative space.

Hunter Chan's picture

Or lighten the sky and add a little green to the blue :D

Marvin Grey's picture

These are awesome photos, Benjamin! I agree with Adriano and Hunter, but it's already cool as it is! Muting the blues will also work! Great work!

Benjamin Smith's picture

Thanks Marvin. Appreciate the feedback!