Gallery: less is more (minimalism in photography)
Keeping things simple doesn’t mean taking it easy. Sometimes it’s harder to leave things out when composing an image than to include them. There can be a temptation to cram everything in, to show it all in a single image. However, often your subject will have more impact on the viewer if it stands alone, free of clutter. This is something I try for in all my photography; leaving the non-essentials out of an image.
But sometimes keeping it simple isn’t enough; I want to strip away almost everything to create a truly minimalist image. To be considered minimalist an image should be very clean, with a single point of focus. It will probably have a lot of negative space: areas that are empty of any significant content. That may sound boring but by placing your main subject in one small part of the image you can create maximum impact.
Composition matters more than ever in a minimalist shot. Generally the rule of thirds is a great guide to the placement of your subject, but sometimes breaking the rule to create a more symmetrical image can be effective. I have no idea why this is so or whether the variations that please me will also please others.
You can also achieve minimalism in editing, using photo effects to simplify a shot and draw attention to a single element within it. A high key edit can work well for this, as can conversion to black and white. My feature photo, taken at Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, is an example of a deliberately minimalist edit, as is the Sussex rose below.
Another way of achieving a minimalist shot is to focus on a detail. By eliminating most of your subject you can create a more abstract photo with minimal clutter. I’ve done that with my detail of a house in Reykjavik and the barbed wire at Tuol Sleng. The latter is the notorious Khmer Rouge interrogation and extermination centre, now a museum. To me this small detail conveyed the chilling atmosphere in a different, but equally chilling, way to more general images of its cells.
I’m interested to see what you make of my contributions to this week’s Lens Artists Challenge theme. Sofia proposes that we share images that are either minimalist or maximalist or a selection of both. As I’m so fond of the former I have pulled out some examples from my archives that fit my own definition of the term!
Grass at White Sands, New Mexico
Sunset in Senegal
Reeds in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Bougainvillea at the Royal Palace in Luang Prabang
Autumn in Kyoto
Banana leaf in Kerala
Table mat detail, Leipzig
Adobe building in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Building at Trinity Buoy Wharf, on the Thames in east London
House in Reykjavik, Iceland
House in Whitstable, Kent
Paddle boarder, Sal, Cape Verde
Fisherman on the Mekong, southern Laos
Barbed wire at Tuol Sleng, Phnom Penh
Rose in a Sussex garden
I like your minimalist shots a lot! In our daily lives, we are pure minimalists and that’s probably why I’m so fond of your photos. Love the bougainvillea and the fisherman in Laos … however, my favourite must be the image of the grass in New Mexico 😊.
That White Sands shot is proving a favourite with a lot of people 😀 It’s a great place for this sort of photography!
Like you, White Sands was a given for this challenge. I love the grass photo and loved looking at the plant life there, along with the lessons in botany. It is an amazing. And I enjoyed seeing Santa Fe come across your photos as well. It was a fun challenge, and you nailed it, all over the world for us. Donna
Thanks so much Donna 😊 It was actually White Sands that inspired our whole trip to New Mexico – I saw a friend’s photos and just had to visit!
The first picture is my favorite, Sarah. So much said with so little.
Thanks Siobhan – I guess that’s the aim of a minimalist image? Otherwise it’s just a pointless largely empty space!!
These are just gorgeous examples, Sarah! Quite impossible to pick favourites, but maybe…the grass, and the barbed wire…and the yellow house…and…
Thank you Ann Christine, I’m pleased you like so many of them!
You have got the eye for it!
I love the details and the mix of colors that you have captured. Beautiful pictures!
Thanks so much Meg, for stopping by and for the lovely feedback 🙂
These minimalism images are remarkable, Sarah! I’m learning about mini from your series. Thank you!
Thank you Amy 😊 I’m happy you’re get so much out of this post!
Excellent selection of minimalist….right up my photographic street, so to speak! The grass, Kyoto Autumn and the barbed wire were the ones that stood out for me. Oh, and house in Whitstable
Thanks so much Sue 😊 I know this is your preferred sort of style so I really appreciate the feedback!
Fabulous colour collection as well as the minimal aspect. I notice Whitstable often appears in your galleries – you need to let us know next time you’re heading there, as it’s on our doorstep.
Thank you 😊 We’ve been to Whitstable a couple of times – if we come again I’ll definitely let you know! Likewise if you’re ever in London with time to spare 🙂
Fantastic work. They are all quite stunning.
Thank you, I’m really glad you like them 😀
The sand and the reeds are great but the standout for me has to be the bougainvillea, just because I love them and you have captured it so well.
Thanks so much Jo! Bougainvillea is a real favourite of mine, perhaps more so because we don’t get it here so I associate it with travelling 🙂
As I tend toward minimalism in photography, I greatly enjoyed these. I especially like the grass, the banana leaf, the wire, and the rose.
Thanks Janet – it’s great to get feedback from a fellow minimalist 😀
Wonderful response to the theme – you have a great eye for this type of photography
Thank you Nora 😊 I guess this is a style I’m drawn to and have practised quite a lot!
Wonderful images this week Sarah. I especially loved the barbed wire image, it truly tells the story. They’re all wonderful though
Thank you Tina 🙂 That barbed wire really struck me among all the other harrowing sights at that museum.
Aletta - nowathome
I just love your photos Sarah! The Grass at White Sands is my favourite!
Thanks so much Aletta, I’m really pleased you liked these 🙂 That one is a favourite of mine!
Skillfully done, Sarah. A perfect collection for this challenge, the grass one is my favourite. It takes a very keen eye to spot something like that and make it work.
Thank you Sofia ☺ The White Sands is a perfect environment for this sort of photography – almost any photo taken there would fit the minimalist brief I reckon!
Wow. FINE photography. Superb.
Aw, thanks so much John 😊
philosophy through photography
Lovely collection, well balanced and well explained.
Love the yellow building
Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 I did make an effort to arrange and balance the shots, so I’m particularly pleased you noticed and appreciated that!
philosophy through photography
I enjoyed going though all the images.
A visual treat my friend.
Yes, you definitely nailed the challenge. And Brimham Rocks is quite the star when you’re looking for a minimalist shot, as you have discovered. So satisfying to highlight those monumental shapes against a (usually) flat grey sky!
Thanks so much Margaret 😊 Actually we had pretty nice weather on that visit to Brimham Rocks but that particular shot was against quite a washed out sky because it was into the sun. So it was easy to make it plain white in that high key B&W edit 🙂
Such gorgeous examples, Sarah! I would think that you have a lot of choices in your gallery. I still have to try and look for one.
Thank you Teresa, and I’ll look forward to seeing what you find among your own photos 🙂