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Minimalist Photography - The 8 Elements

Updated on January 20, 2014

Minimalist Image

"Hanging Tulip"
"Hanging Tulip" | Source

The Minimalist Photographer

Minimalist Photography - The 8 Elements

Being a minimalist photographer, simply means artfully doing with less. In life a person may own simple but tasteful furniture and basic but timeless clothes. In photography being a minimalist photographer is similar. A simple minimalist image is with one subject and no distractions sum it all up. But like anything in life there is minimalism and then there is minimalism. A really good minimalist photograph has qualities that other photographs don’t always have or need. Sometimes the photographer can get a perfect picture in the mind’s eye and translate it onto the camera sensor and a perfect image emerges. More often the minimalist photograph is fine tuned in the digital darkroom.

What is the one factor that makes a good minimalist image a great one? Is there an answer to this question? Maybe not a simple one but there are a few things that all minimalist photographers would agree that make a great minimalist photograph.

Joel Tjintjetlaar Long Exposure B&W

Minimalist Photography

"Dock" | Source

8 Elements of Minimalist Photography

Counting Backwards...

8) Use of Compositional Elements: Minimalism like other forms of photography can benefit from good use of the elements of composition. Leading lines, rule of thirds, odd numbers, textures, balance, etc. apply here too. And as always rules were meant to be broken, provided there is a good reason. Think about what the finished product will look like. Don`t get too “invested” in your own work thinking you’ve got something great but the rest of the world doesn't see it.

The List of Rules for Composition in Photography

7) A clean photograph, one subject without distraction: The minimalist photographer ensures there are no wires, branches or other superfluous objects are in the photograph. It’s best to remove these objects when the photograph is taken. Alternatively the use of software to clean the photograph can be used but be sure to use the right technique to take the entire distracting object out. Often software can leave a “residue” or a bit of blur.

6) Impact: Minimalist photography makes a statement and the minimalist photographer uses drama are much more appealing than boring shots straight forward shots. What is it about the minimalist image that gives it that little extra appeal that will make it an exceptional shot?

5) Use of negative space: Negative space is the space in minimalist photos that are filled with…nothing. In order to effectively use negative space in a minimalist photo the subject should be small and the negative space overwhelming. The negative space should contrast the object. For instance a white background and a small black subject, maybe even a long shadow. A colour minimalist image example could be a small red terracotta pot on an overwhelming bright blue background.

Negative Space

Minimalist Photography

4) Simple subjects: An example of a simple subject can be a single red leaf against a blurry green background but probably not a whole tree. It could be a black marble with a long shadow on a white surface but not the whole bag of marbles. I think you see the point. A minimalist image may not be a perfectly simple image but a simple concept is very important.

3) Strong Contrast, Simple Patterns: If the minimalist image involves a pattern it must be a simple pattern and would generally have strong contrast with the background. A flower popping through a white picket fence on a dark blue sky might make a good example of a strong contrasting minimalist image with a simple pattern and subject.

2) Textures: Textures can play an important part in producing a certain mood of your minimalist image. However when using a texture use caution. A gritty minimalist image may look better with a gravelly background but the use of a background just because you have one rarely makes sense

1) Evokes an emotion: What feeling do you get when looking at a minimalist photograph? A sense of peace? Maybe a sense of strength? Or a sense of a harsh environment? How about a sense of victory?

  • If you could create a popular poster of your minimalist photography could you give it a powerful one word name? How about a single runner passionately breaking through a finish line ribbon with a simple setting? Wouldn’t that just say volumes about “Victory”? What would make it minimalist? Probably an empty background and negative space would help in making a shot a work of minimalism.

Minimalist Photography

"STRENGTH" | Source

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A really great minimalist image is hard to produce and in doing some of my research I found a whole lot of mediocre shots (including one or two of mine I must admit!) To become good at minimalist photography requires study, time and patience. Minimalist photography is a subset of the larger hobby or profession of photography that requires passion and dedication to become great.

Some of my other articles

5 Tips for Great Minimalist Photography

Raw vs Jpeg - What You Need to Know

How to Shop for a Used Camera Lens

Build a Home Photography Studio for Less

Changing Your Photo to Outstanding Black and White

Composition in Photography: Depth of Field

Why not join me on Facebook as well.

Jan Maklak Photo


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    • raydevlin profile image

      Ray Devlin 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Another great article Jan!

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      Mike: Please join me on Face book as well. Once you've liked my pag direct me to some of your minimalist shots and I'll share them with the 650 or so followers there and tweet them out to my 14,500 twitter followers. I'd love to see your work!

    • mikedmckenzie profile image

      Michael McKenzie 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      I love minimalist photography or even photography that leverages some elements of minimalism, so your identifying these principles helps me understand where my own tastes are directed and how better to utilise them in my photography. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Vanderleelie 5 years ago

      A good outline of minimalist principles, with helpful tips for the photographer. The use of negative space as an element in the composition is vital to the success of a minimalist work, as you have pointed out, and I think this aspect is often overlooked when a photographer is busy focusing on subject matter. Voted up and shared.

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you Paul for your vote of confidence.

    • Paul Maplesden profile image

      Paul Maplesden 5 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Your hub combines some great imagery and photographs with a very clear, step-by-step guide on how to achieve it. I like the approach of the article - Voted up, useful and interesting.