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Minimalist Photography: How to Shoot with Minimal Aesthetics

While sometimes less is more, minimalist photography is easier said than done. Here are some tips to get you started.

Photography comes in many forms. Some tug our emotions, others are thought-provoking. Then, there are those that slightly tickle our curiosity. Trends come and go. And, right now, minimalist photography is on a high.

Minimalist Photography

While it’s not a new type of photography, it’s always refreshing to see it pop on our social media feed. The moment we check our phones, we’re bombarded with images. And, each photo is packed with many different elements. And then, there are the photos that showcase fewer elements, yet still stand out.

Understanding Minimal Aesthetics

By definition, aesthetics in the world of photography refers to the elements that are combined in one frame, which makes that image appealing. When someone says aesthetically good photo, they’re not referring to the camera used, or camera settings, or post-production skills, although those matter too. More often than not, an aesthetically good photo is one with the right elements combined.

A minimalist image may look plain and simple, but shooting it is a different story. For this type of photography, it’s the lack of elements that matter. And, knowing which to keep and which to remove takes practice.

How to Shoot with Minimal Aesthetics

Keep it Simple

Keep it Simple
Remember, less is more. Image via Maram.

This sounds basic, but rule number one in minimalist photography is to keep it simple. This mostly is all about the composition—less is more. We’re used to having lots of elements in one frame—textured background, lots of popping colors, foreground, background, and the layers in-between—but when you begin to shoot minimalist images, you have to change your mindset. So, whenever you go out and shoot, know that you’re opting for, above all, simplicity.

Love Negative Space

Understand Negative Space
Embrace negative space. Image via Sven Hofmann.

Negative space is a gem when you’re shooting minimal. When used correctly, negative space will make your image look more aesthetically pleasing. But beware, it also has the tendency to make your image look dull and boring. So, when shooting, don’t just look for good light or a good subject. Also look for negative space that matches the vibe of the kind of photo you want to take.

Find the Best POV

Shooting POV
Shoot from various points of view. Image via Coraline M.

Sometimes, it’s all about the point of view (POV), especially if you’re in a difficult space. Unlike being at the beach or on top of a mountain, finding good negative space may be difficult. No sea of clouds. No calming blue sea. This is where getting creative matters more than ever. And, this is where you need to go outside the box and shoot from different points of view. For instance, consider shooting from below so you can also feature the clear sky.

As Much as Possible, Shoot with Soft Lighting

Soft Lighting
The beach is perfect for soft lighting. Image via fran_kie.

Soft lighting is also super helpful when shooting with minimal aesthetics. The lack of strong, direct light means the ability to capture small details that otherwise may not be so visible. Then again, this depends on your space or where you’re shooting at. If you’re at the beach, soft light is what you’d want. If you’re outdoors with lots of buildings, strong lights or direct sunlight in the afternoons may work if you want to capitalize on shadows.

Minimize the Colors

Shoot in Black and White
For some nice shadows and elegant simplicity, try shooting in black and white. Image via Etienne Massicotte.

Since we just mentioned shadows, let’s go ahead and talk a little bit about color. Or, in this case, the lack thereof. When shooting with minimal aesthetics, color is one element you may consider removing—or, at least lessening. There are a lot of amazing black and white minimalist photos out there. They’re great not only because they’re simple, but also because they’re shot in black and white.

If you don’t fancy black and white, lessening the color in your frame may be a good idea. Picture a surfer and her bright yellow surfboard in the middle of the blue ocean with white bubbles in the rolling waves.

Isolate Your Subject

Isolate Your Subject
Try isolating your subject by moving in closer to it. Image via Jose HERNANDEZ Camera 51.

Isolating your subject may seem like a very basic rule but it’s something often forgotten. And, when you’re new to minimalist photography, it may be something you haven’t even thought about. Isolating your subject sounds easy, but the outside world is full of stuff. Buildings, trees, walls with graffiti—the city life is basically a concrete jungle.

One way to successfully isolate your image is to get closer to it, whether that’s physically getting close or zooming in with your camera. Another way is to do it post-production. When editing minimalist photos, the crop tool comes in handy.

Don’t Be Afraid to Break Some Rules

Breaking the Rules
Sometimes it’s good to break the rules. Image via beka venezia.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to break some rules. When it comes to photography, it’s so easy to watch video after video, read one article after the other, and work real hard to follow all those rules.

However, keep in mind that photography is a creative space. You can experiment on your own and learn from it. You can compose your own minimalist images and learn what works and what doesn’t. As Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Cover image via Etienne Massicotte.

Learn more about minimalism in the realm of photography:

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