As our online and offline lives become busier and more cluttered, it’s only natural that we look for simplicity wherever we can. Minimalist photography is one area where creatives can find meaning in the purity of simple lines, shapes, and forms. At first glance, minimalist photos may look plain — even boring — but these photos often stick with the viewer, evoking emotions, stories, and meanings that aren’t readily apparent.
If you’re looking for a new photographic challenge that involves creatively simplifying your compositions, give minimalist photography a try. Here are some tips to get you started.
What is minimalist photography?
Minimalist photography usually focuses on a single subject without the clutter of various colors, patterns, and other composition elements. This type of photography is characterized by simple elements like lines, textures, and colors to evoke an emotional response.
What does “keeping it simple” mean in photography?
When it comes to creating minimalist images, the goal is to avoid visual clutter and create impact with a “less is more” approach. That means looking for striking subjects that don’t need additional information to tell a story or evoke an emotion from the viewer.
6 elements of minimalist photography
While the goal is certainly to keep it simple with minimalist photography, there are still several important elements that will help you create impactful images. And although you don’t need to include all of these elements in every minimalist photo that you take, you should at least consider them when creating your composition.
1. Negative space
Negative space is the area that surrounds the main subject in your image and helps to define it. Despite the name, negative space doesn’t have to be empty. It can be an expanse of grass, sky, or water, but it is usually devoid of distracting elements.
Using negative space allows your viewer’s eye to move about the image freely while creating a sense of balance between the subject and the space around it. How much negative space you use depends entirely on the situation and the impact you are trying to create, so feel free to experiment with the concept.
Keeping things simple requires careful thought about your subject and its placement within the frame. A subject with a lot of detail may require more negative space to give the composition balance. The goal is to minimize distractions within your photo so that you can showcase the main subject and its relationship with the surrounding elements.
How you compose your shot is a crucial component in minimalist photography. The way you place an image within the boundaries of your photo will have an impact on how your viewer sees and interacts with the image. In some cases, you will want symmetry; in others, it’s best to create balance by using the rule of thirds. Subjects that take up less room within the frame may need more breathing room to attract the viewer’s attention. There are countless ways to compose your shot. Take time during both shooting and editing to consider all of your angles.
Color is often used to create drama, evoke emotions, or emphasize a subject. In minimalist photography, similar colors can create a sense of balance and serenity. For more contrast and drama, you can use complementary colors like blue/orange, yellow/purple, or red/green. Even a lack of color makes a statement in minimalist photos! Think about the vision you are going for and consider how color can help make that vision a reality.
5. Lines and shapes
Lines and shapes can be used to guide your viewer’s eye through your image and help create a sense of scale and distance within the scene. While leading lines can direct the eye to your subject, you can also use horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines to create drama, separation, or isolation. Use bold shapes to create minimalist abstract images, repeating shapes to draw your viewer’s attention, and symmetrical shapes for a feeling of balance.
6. Textures and patterns
Textures and patterns can add depth and dimension to your minimalist photos without introducing distractions. Patterns are comprised of repeated objects, shapes, or colors and can be used as a focal point for a minimalist photo or as part of the background. Texture can be used to convey how an object feels — soft, smooth, rough, etc. To convey texture visually, it can be helpful to zoom in on the details.
How to take minimalist photos with your iPhone
You can use some or all of the above elements to create stunning minimalist pictures with your iPhone. Here are some tips you can use to introduce simplicity into your photos for unique minimalist compositions.
1. Change your camera angle to find more negative space
When you think of all the elements that can be distracting in a scene, you’ll find that most of them sit at eye level. When looking out onto a scene, the first things you’re likely to notice are prominent features like buildings, structures, crowds of people, the landscape, and other objects. Now trying looking up at the sky or down at the ground. Notice how everything becomes a lot simpler. So if you are struggling to create a minimalist composition, turn your camera up or down and see what you can find.
2. Crop out distractions
A carefully composed photo will go a long way toward minimizing clutter in your photos. Some distractions, however, may not be able to be avoided. Fortunately, you can use a photo editing app to crop out distractions within your image and zoom into the part of the photo that works best for minimalist techniques.
3. Experiment with the rule of thirds
The rule of thirds doesn’t work with every minimalist photo, but it’s a great way to start when you want to introduce negative space into a photo or keep your viewer’s eye moving around the frame. You can use the rule of thirds to bring the eye from left to right or top to bottom without creating perfect symmetry.
4. Try macro photography
Zooming in close on a subject is a great way to reduce clutter and create stunning abstract compositions that work well as minimalist photos. A field of flowers is lovely to look at. However, this sort of image likely has too much going on to be considered minimalist. Zoom in on the details of a single flower, and you become more focused on the textures, patterns, and colors of a single object.
5. Go black and white with a pop of color
Turning color photos into black-and-white shots will go a long way toward minimizing distractions. So if color seems to be getting in the way, try adding a black and white filter to your shot. Another fun way to add impact is to highlight a single color in your image and make the rest of the photo black and white. You can use the Pop Color feature in Photoshop Express to isolate a color within your image while making the rest of the image black and white. This makes for a fun experiment in minimalist photography.
Practicing minimalist photography will help you discover new and creative compositions, isolate your subjects, and see images in ways that you may not have noticed otherwise. Even if minimalism isn’t your chosen genre of photography, it’s a useful technique for improving your skills.