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Minimalist Photography

Updated on March 3, 2014
CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Minimalist or minimalism photography is a style which is well suited for poetic use. The term "less is more" truly fits in with this particular style of photography. The barriers are often crossed with deciding if an image is minimalist or not.

A clear definition has not been agreed upon by most experts. But certainly a photograph that has several elements or several colors, a lot of detail, many points of interest, does not fit the minimalism style of photography.

Often these images have one or two colors. The colors may be in contrast to one another or the colors may be lighter shades of each other. This style often portraits subjects that are awed by a much larger surrounding, think of a speck of dust on a white table. The most simplest of examples would be an image that is part white and part black.

This genre often involves cropping the image to where its just a small part of a much larger scene. This style is very similar to macro photography, but unlike it, it does attempt to take very close images of its subject matter and is often labeled as conceptual photography and fine art photography.

This type of photography can be difficult to master. The photographer has to make an image that is visually stunning, yet with the least details and elements as possible.

It reduces the elements of a general scene into an final image that it's down to the barest of details yet powerful enough to stimulate the senses and create a strong visual impact. It aims to create a dynamic interaction between the image and the viewers. It prompts the audience to to analyze the subject and the space that it occupies within the larger scheme.

If one has ever stared at a painting, work of art, a sculpture etc. and wondered what is was, what it represented, the artist's motives etc. this is a typical minimalist concept.

Minimalism concentrates on capturing images that have very few elements, have very few distinct colors, are usually of small objects framed within a larger scene or a smaller elements of a larger subject. It uses a lot of simple designs, geometric shapes, It also uses repeating shapes. Its intentions are to leave room for interpretation by the viewer, to allow for the imagination to wander.

The best subjects for this style are still life, whether found or arranged. The use of an intense subject/background color combination is strongly desired, but an opposite color combination or dull and vivid often make for a more dramatic impact.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source

Minimalist photographs can be created in the studio like using one or two small items and photographing them against a backdrop that is of a dull or neutral color, white works well for this as does black.

But there are plenty of opportunities in nature and all around you. For example sandy beaches are good large areas, with a few elements either arranged or found, you can make a minimalistic image. Just include more background space than the subject itself. Another variation would be to take close ups of elements within the beach itself, like seashells, a piece of seaweed etc. A typical minimalist image would be a lonely figure shot against the backdrop of a snow covered field. The image of the subject should be much smaller as compared to the area of the field encompassed in the frame. In other words more snow less person. Another fine example is a single ship, boat etc photographed against the expanses of the ocean.

Other examples include a single bird against a blue sky, a single rose against a plain field of green. Lets look at this sample; you take a photo of a particularly tall building, which also includes several other skyscrapers, probably parts of the city as well. This image is not minimalism. However by cropping the image, either in Photoshop or with your camera's viewer, you zoom into a specific part of the building until by selective focusing and cropping you have eliminated all possible details that would distract from the main subject; the top of the tall building.

So your key tools besides an active imagination, and a sharp eye for detail, are your camera's viewfinder and a good zoom lens, not to forget is a good photo editing software.

Like poetry which invokes an image, paints a picture, elicits feelings and emotions with its careful selection of words and arrangement, so does minimalistic photography by its careful selection of subjects arranged within a broader scene.

By now you should have realized that the main buyers of this style of photography are art galleries, card companies, and poetry publications.

Have fun, be creative, look at everything and see the possibilities, you never know when an ordinary scene can turn into a great photograph.

Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0 A painting by artist Jonathan Horowitz. This photograph was taken at the Minimalist Works from the Holocaust Museum exhibition at the DCA in Dundee, Scotland
Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0 A painting by artist Jonathan Horowitz. This photograph was taken at the Minimalist Works from the Holocaust Museum exhibition at the DCA in Dundee, Scotland | Source
CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Teresa Schultz- thanks for the comment. The rule is called the "rule of thirds", but the secret is to always have fun.

      lol ,and thanks again

    • Teresa Schultz profile image

      Teresa Schultz 6 years ago from East London, in South Africa

      I enjoy minimimalist photography since I'm a bit of a composition freak when it comes to photography - although there are no "real" photography rules when you're trying to be creative, I do enjoy how the two thirds (or is it one thirds?) (same thing I think) rule applies when composing a minimalist photograph - where the main subject is placed - as nicely depicted in two of the images you include here - the green on yellow background, and the red on green background.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      So enjoy these photo hubs. Thanks for posting them. They are a great learning experience for someone like myself.

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      I love this hub what beautiful work. Marked awesome and beautiful.

    • sangre profile image

      Sp Greaney 6 years ago from Ireland

      This articles has given me an whole new insight to photography. Voted up.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 6 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      A great photo article. Learn something new everyday around here. Thanks

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 6 years ago from Philippines

      I love minimalist photography too. However as you said, it's rather hard to master.

      Thanks for this beautiful hub.

      Rated up and beautiful!