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5 Tips for Minimalist Photography

Updated on September 9, 2013

Minimalist Shoreline


Minimalism: Is There a Universal Definition in Art?

Minimalist photography refers to the simplicity or minimalist nature of a photograph. In my research for this article I found that minimalist photography has a varied meaning and is in the interpretation of the photographer. Like most photography, minimalism can be executed well or it can be done leaving the viewer to wonder “Is this minimalism or just a bad photo.”

I love the minimalist concept and I have viewed thousands of minimalist photographs. I have taken quite a few photographs myself, often long exposure minimalist photography. The one striking theme that I can determine throughout that seems to make a difference is a subject. A photograph without a subject lacks a certain element of involvement with the viewer. In my research for this article I saw a technically perfect photograph of a sky, horizon and water. At first glance I liked it and then in a moment thought “What is this photograph about?” Simplicity does not mean the photograph is about nothing. If that was the case why not just take a picture of a clear blue sky? There is still something substantive about minimalism.

Humans in the photograph seem to add another layer of emotion and thought the photograph. Some human elements in minimalism could be the silhouette of a child playing or a person walking along a beach. The possibilities are obviously endless.



5 tips for Great Minimalist Photography

Here are some tips for trying minimalist photography.

  • Be in a Zen like state. This is a concept of minimalism. You may think this is funny or just some fluff but if you are calm and relaxed and have time on your hands your likelihood of getting a better photograph increases. This can be said for many photographic works but is especially true in minimalism.
  • Concentrate on a single subject. Is there a minimalist subject in a street full of people? No chance for minimalism here? Think again and start to see differently. A pigeon has just landed on an awning; a bicycle was just leaned against a lamp post; A shopping bag was just set down and stands alone. These are examples of potential minimalist photography. The photographer through creative angles can create a minimalist photograph even in busy places.
  • Break the subject down even finer. The bell on a bicycle, a reflector, or a seat spring are all potential subjects.
  • Know when to use blur and when to focus. A flower in a garden can be a subject of minimalism if you eliminate all of the other flowers, the tangle of vines and whatever else may fall into the picture. Blur can be an effective way to create minimalism. A fast lens will be needed. An aperture of f1.8 at a minimum and f1.2 is even better. Still you may need to use software in your digital darkroom to manipulate the background enough to call it minimalism. Focus is needed vast areas with a single subject like a person walking on a beach.
  • The rules of composition still apply. The rule of thirds, leading lines, space for subjects in motion etc. still applies. The rule of thirds simply put is the subject should not be centred but should be about a third of the way to either side of the photograph and a third of the way from the top or bottom of a photograph. The rule of thirds therefore discourages putting a horizon in the middle of a photograph and putting your subject dead centre or too high or low in your photograph as well. The rule of thirds may even apply more in minimalism. When the photograph is simplified as much as possible the rule of thirds becomes more evident and it may be important to use the rule of thirds as a result. You be the judge and consider some creative cropping to achieve this in your photograph.



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In conclusion even simplicity itself is an art and the photographer can study and improve continually. Slowing down and changing how you see the world along with technical expertise may be the biggest factors to get minimalist photography right. Practice makes perfect and even more practice creates brilliance.

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Jan Maklak
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    • Anita Coleman profile image

      Anita Coleman 4 years ago from virginia beach

      Thank you very much for the tips... I am an budding minimalist photographer. This helped me so very much.

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for the vote and your comments.

    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 5 years ago from Austin, TX

      Thanks for the good tips Jan. Sometimes less is more even in photography. Even ordinary objects can turn into a work of art by such good photography tricks. Voted up, useful and shared.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Interesting article, JanMaklak. I'm not a photographer, but you really make it sound simple! Thanks!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      Hi Jan - I am not too far from you in the Niagara region - in-between Dunville and Port Dover ...... the main thing about our hobbies is to love what you are doing - and I can tell by some of your hubs in which I have read that you combine passion, knowledge, expertise and creativity - lake erie time 1:54pm and I will see you again

    • JanMaklak profile image

      JanMaklak 5 years ago from Canada

      Thank you for your nice "world class" comment but I could name off many, many photographers better than me just here in my city. One think about photography is there is always a need to strive for better. Rain here too in St. Catharines. Got to love global warming. I'll check out Fossillady's work. Thanks for the tip!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      You are certainly a world class photographer and coming from a minimalist writer I really do love your work here and your advice too - please check out my buddy FOSSILLADY at the Hubs - she is a great photographer and sending to you warm wishes from ontario, canada - lake erie time 1:38pm How has your Canadian winter been so far?

      We are getting rain here instead of snow

    • raydevlin profile image

      Ray Devlin 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Good article Jan. There are infinite opportunities for minimalist photography all around us - it really is a matter of zoning out and finding them.