Minimalism is a powerful art form that emerged post World War 2 and gained popularity in the 1960s.
The principle of “less is more” involves the stripping down of composition to the bare minimum. It places an emphasis on empty space around a subject. Naturally, minimalism should find its way to photography.
We have previously discussed lighting and composition, composition is however subjective. We start with a big picture and work towards excluding elements that may distract us. This is done through lens choice and framing. You bring order out of chaos, if you strive to do this consistently you embrace minimalism. You need to consider your subject, placement, negative space and colour. Your subject is important in general photography but more so in minimalism, lines and shapes are important. Look for subjects where this will work. Look for detail such as fences or geometric shapes. Remove clutter, use the foreground and the horizon. Use man-made structures such as isolated buildings, lone trees, boulders, pebbles or even light and shadows.
Inclement weather and mist also work well. Sparse landscapes are natural for minimalist photography.
Your pictures should simply be uncluttered. It’s not that simple though, you have numerous options for subject placement. As well as the subject size.
You can create really bold compositions with a single subject. Complexity often leads to disharmony, keep it simple and uncluttered. Less is more!
Careful subject placement can even create an element of drama. As I have said before one can kick the rule of thirds into touch to good effect. With a less is more approach subject placement takes on a new dimension. A simple choice becomes rather complex as size and placement influence the end result.
It’s great when you have a muted colour palette as opposed to a vibrant one. Vibrancy often leads to clutter and confusion. Look to complementary colours, especially in bad weather. However bold colours also have their place, especially at sunrise or sunset – think blue and orange.
Recently I have seen a resurgence of interest in minimalism amongst photographers experimenting with the genre. Perhaps this is influenced by social media and the ease with which it allows one to share work.
Minimalism is not great for landscapes unless they are uncluttered, even bleak. Think salt pans and deserts.
You can not get any simpler, aim for a composition that is simple, clear and uncluttered. Even if the result is not purely minimalistic.
You can apply minimalism to most styles of photography, portrait, architecture, even landscapes. Think of it as a reductive process – hence less being more.
Do not forget to reduce the unnecessary elements, you are looking for vacant bare space and simple backgrounds. You also need to reduce contradicting elements and look for things that work together. In doing this you will achieve a sense of barrenness, this is minimalism. Play with the concept, you may not always achieve it as it is difficult. Remember to limit the elements to get the effect you want. Restrict colour and subjects. Get out there and try minimalism. You will have a great deal of fun. Keep it simple!