A GUIDE TO MINIMALIST PHOTOGRAPHY:

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

Minimalist photography seems to be an art that has taken off lately. And I am one that really likes this type of photography. This is a simple photo to do, as well as very attractive to those looking at the photo.

What is minimalist photography, and how can you capture stunning minimalist photos?

Minimalism is a popular artistic technique, and it’s a great way to spice up your images. (It’s also a good way to generate lots of attention on social media.) But beginners often struggle to get to grips with minimalism, which is where this article comes in handy.

WHAT IS MINIMALIST PHOTOGRAPHY?

Minimalist photography, also known as minimalism photography, is a type of image-making that relies on simplistic compositions, heavy use of empty space, and elimination of clutter.

Thanks to their simplicity, minimalistic photos often have a characteristically meditative effect:

Note that minimalist photos generally feature some form of main subject (e.g., the boat in the image above). But subject presence is kept to a minimum; here, minimalist photographers often zoom out for a small-in-the-frame subject surrounded by empty space.

Some photographers are pure minimalists, choosing to capture images that are as simple as possible (e.g., a single tree surrounded by white snow). But other photographers incorporate minimalistic elements into their work alongside non-minimalistic elements. Either approach is fine – just do what feels right!

Key elements of minimalist photography:

Minimalism can be applied to pretty much every genre of photography, including portrait, landscape, still life, architecture, and even street shooting. But minimalist photos do have a few key characteristics:

  • Negative space. Minimalist photos tend to feature lots of empty, or negative, space. Negative space is composed of expanses of pure color or texture, such as a broad stretch of ocean or a grassy lawn. (And featureless white skies are a minimalist staple!)
  • A small main subject. Minimalist compositions keep the subject small in the frame so that they’re dwarfed by negative space. As I discuss below, this can be done with a wide-angle lens or by shooting from a distance. In cases where the main subject isn’t small in the frame, it should be exceptionally simple (e.g., a few streaks of paint on a wall).
  • Limited clutter. Minimalism emphasizes simplicity, and minimalist photos tend to feature a main subject, lots of empty space, and nothing else. Minimalist photographers carefully refine their compositions until no extra elements – such as poles or telephone lines in the background – exist. The more clutter you can eliminate from your shots, the more minimalist they’ll be.

If you like, you can look at the above list as a recipe for minimalist photos. As long as you include all three items, you’ll end up with a decent minimalist shot – and as you become more familiar with minimalist compositions, your results will become more and more powerful.

Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

TIPS TO WATCH FOR WHEN SHOOTING MINIMALIST PHOTOS:

As I have been looking at photos that I think are the best minimalist photos, I was surprised to find out that most people follow these rules:

  • A wide field of view
  • Plenty of distance between yourself and your subject

ONE THING PHOTOGRAPHERS MISS IN MINIMALISM:

The rules of composition are often missed in minimalist photos. I went through quite a few photos where the subject was right in the middle of the frame. I found no artistic value to this, mostly because it is just so much static to a photo when the subject is right in the middle. PLEASE! use the RULE OF THIRDS, when taking photos with minimalism. See: https://123photogo.com/2021/11/12/rules-of-photography/

NEGATIVE SPACE

Another meaning for minimalist photography is “Negative Space”. As you will notice the one thing that you need to accomplish the minimalism, is to find a lot of space around the subject. I have put an article like that together already. Check this out: https://123photogo.com/2021/11/01/understanding-negative-space/

Here are just a few photos I have found that bring out the best ideas in Minimalist photography:

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UNDERSTANDING “NEGATIVE SPACE”

negative space in photography woman near tree

I have been blogging about different photo subjects for years now, and the interest in “negative space” photos continues to grow. So, what is “Negative Space”?

Negative space refers to areas of a composition that are empty, bland, or otherwise uninteresting. That’s why negative space is also called white space; it’s where nothing is really happening. But, the photograph with negative space seems to be an growing type of photo subject because it creates some mood to the photo with a new interest in the feel of a photo. A lot of “negative space” photos do not go along with the composition rules of photography. Kind of one of those subjects you can break the rules on.

In photography, negative space is often made up of certain elements:

  • Water
  • Sky
  • Walls
  • Sand

Note that all of these elements tend to fade easily into the background, and that’s why they make such great negative space. An empty sky does not draw the eye, any more than a blank white wall, a stretch of empty sand, and so on.

Now, some photos are full of negative space. These compositions are often very abstract, such as a stretch of empty blue sky, or a sand dune stretching off in every direction. Such negative-space-centric compositions can also be minimalistic, with a single eye-catching element surrounded by emptiness.

So let’s take a look at some of the points of NEGATIVE SPACE:

1. Let the scene dictate your negative space and positive space combination

For example, a few years ago, I stood at a popular lookout, observing an iconic rock sitting in the Atlantic Ocean in Eastern Canada. It was early morning and some fog had rolled in, covering most of the impressive structure. The woman standing next to me turned to me and said, “It’s so sad, we’re driving by today, and I wanted to get a photo of the Percé Rock. But due to the fog, it seems it won’t be possible.”

She left, disappointed that she didn’t get her shot. But I stayed, and I stood for a long time, examining the fog and the way it draped the rock like a heavy blanket. I thought it was one of the most amazing things to happen that day. I felt so lucky to be there at that exact moment to capture the wonder unfolding. I embraced the negative space, and I captured a beautiful, minimalistic image.

foggy rock on the water

Bottom line:

Be adaptable. Be flexible. If negative space dominates a scene, let it, even if you generally prefer to avoid minimalistic compositions. Make sense?

2. Use negative space to balance out positive space

A key goal of photographic composition is to achieve visual balance. You want your images to feel whole, complete, satisfying.

And one way to achieve balance is by identifying your positive space, then countering it with negative space.

For instance, look at the image below. You can see the positive space – the clenched fist. It’s a powerful, eye-catching subject, but it’s countered by all the surrounding negative space. It creates an overall balance, as you can see:

negative space raised fist

By the way, it’s important to recognize how lots of negative space can balance out just a little positive space. Positive space is aggressive and powerful. Negative space is much more subdued, even soothing. So unless you’re specifically after a very in-your-face image, positive space should come in small doses.

Some photographers practice a “2:1” negative space rule, where you add two parts negative space for every one part positive space. I don’t like to restrict myself in this way, but it’s a good guideline to bear in mind.


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Minimalistic compositions use negative space to great effect. In fact, they’re all about negative space; they take lots of negative space, include a touch of positive space, and create an eye-catching result.

3. Experiment with minimalism

Here’s an example of a minimalist image, where the shadow acts as positive space, while the bricks provide some empty negative space:

cross on the bricks negative space

If you like the minimalistic look, I highly recommend you try it out. It’s pretty simple to pull off.

Here are my recommendations:

  1. Start by identifying a main subject, like a tree, a person, or a building. This will be your positive space.
  2. Adjust your positive, focal length, and camera angle until your main subject is all alone, surrounded by nothing but negative space. (A low perspective is great for this; by dropping down to the ground, you can frame your subject against the sky.)
  3. Eliminate as much color as possible. You want uniformity, if you can get it: just one or two colors in a highly harmonious scene.
  4. Position your main subject toward the edge of the composition. You can try putting the subject at a rule of thirds power point or along a gridline, but you might also consider moving it closer to the edge of the frame.

The tree photo below is highly minimalistic. It includes a small tree positioned in the corner as positive space, while the rest of the photo is (for the most part) negative space, for a nice overall balance.

tree and clouds

4. Use negative space to convey emotion

Negative space tends to be bleak, even melancholy, especially in black and white images.

Use this fact. Tell a story with your composition – a story that’s laced with sadness, or loneliness, or quiet pleasure.

Of course, you should let the scene guide you, as I emphasized above. But you can also carefully add more negative space to your composition by zooming out, or by finding a uniquely empty background, etc.

Check out this negative-space-filled image. Is it full of emotion?

negative space bird flying sunset

CONCLUSION:

Negative space photography is an excellent way to expand your skills and your photographic eye. By mastering negative space, you can capture consistently gorgeous images – no matter your genre of choice.

This article written by: Sandra Roussy, and it was originally posted in: DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY SCHOOL

HERE ARE JUST A FEW EXAMPLES OF NEGATIVE SPACE PHOTOS:

spotlight illuminating smoke
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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HOW TO TAKE PHOTOS WITH “NEGATIVE SPACE”

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Negative Space. This is kind of a new term in photography but has become really popular lately. I am glad it showed up on the “list of 51” that this should be a true photographic subject. So, here is the true definition of “negative space” :

Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image.

As you look at the photo above, you will see mostly space, and lots of space around the subject. Simply put, this is how negative space is used now. It is a very artistic way of doing photography….. and I like it.

Artist unknown

The above photo is another wonderful example of negative space. In this case the huge space around the tree is very interesting and adds depth to the photo.

Here is a list of how negative space can be used:

1- You certainly can use negative space to draw attention to the subject:
Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash

See something that is alone, or interesting, but, nothing else around it seems interesting, then this is one way to use negative space. Your eye is drawn to the dead grass in the above photo, but, notice how little your eye wanders around the photo. Hardly at all.

2- Use negative space to show movement of the subject into the photo.
Artist unknown

With lots of negative space, you can see the owl in the above photo move more into the photo. This is used a lot in winter.

3- Create an air of mystery with negative space:
Photographer unknown

This photo above has a lot of mystery to it. You can see the subject is on water, but, what is it doing? Where are they? What will happen to them? The mystery of the “negative space” is amazing in this type of photo.

Photo by Danilo Batista on Unsplash
Conclusion:

Just to provide mystery or something really unique, try this type of photography, where the subject is almost alone in the surrounds of the photo. It’s pretty impressive.

51 different photo subjects, and I am going to do them all. Keep reading these blogs and see what type of photography would you like to try? www.123photogo.com