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You’ve heard it said a thousand times, that sometimes ‘less is more’, but never is it truer than in the world of photography. In photography it is often the case that simplicity and exactness can be the key compositional elements that make an image stand out from the rest. Simplicity in photography does not refer to how easy it is to take a picture and instead it speaks to composition, tone and the make up of the image!
Simplicity can be seen as a photographic form of the artistic minimalist movement, although photography is sometimes also referred to under this name meaning that the two are somewhat interchangeable and certainly, at least conceptually, related.
The Importance of Simplicity in Photography.
Using simplicity in your work allows you to create clear, effective and memorable photos. Reducing clutter and focusing on the subject of the image helps to frame the image more powerfully and avoids falling into the trap of producing confusing compositions that try to do too much at once.
Channeling your image through a few simple themes will improve your compositions and train you, as a photographer, to become more precise in your work.
7 Ways that You Can Achieve Simplicity in Your Photography.
- Composition: Constantly keeping the composition of a photo in mind is a vital first step to creating work that makes the most of the merits of simplicity, or minimalism. Take clean and simple shots that focus on your subject using leading lines, the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. Using these classically tried and tested compositional techniques will help your photos hit the mark and draw the viewer’s eye seamlessly to the subject of your work.
- Use negative space: Negative space in a photo is the ‘empty’ areas in a image. This could be a background such as the sky, a wall or the ocean. This is contrasted with the ‘positive’ space, that includes the subject of the photo and other objects in the fore and background of the image. When you are creating simplicity in your photography try to consciously minimize the amount of positive space in the image and work on letting the negative space dominate. Despite sounding counterintuitive at first the results are stunning and lead to truly outstanding photos!
- Keep the Backgrounds of the Photo Simple: This doesn’t mean that the background has to be one uniform color, although this can work well in many cases, but it does mean that you don’t want the background to interfere with the subject of the image. Look for interesting patterns, particularly repeating ones, to use as backgrounds. A great example of this is the ocean, the waves of which waves form a background of patterned features without taking away from the negative space it represents; thus allowing the subject of the image, or the positive space, to maintain the center stage of the photo.
- Look for small details and draw them out in your work: It can often be fun to pick out tiny, unexpected details and make them a major point of interest within the photo. There are many examples of ways in which you can do this, for instance the details on the bannister of stairs, a drop of water on a leaf or the details on the surface of a cobblestoned street. Try to contrast the small details with a simple background to maximize their impact. Alternatively you can do this in reverse, with the small details making up the negative space and a subject contrasted in the foreground.
- Keep the number of elements, or parts, of the photo to a minimum: This is similar to keeping the amount of positive space low however it also refers to the number of colors, shapes and objects in the shot. Don’t be afraid to use color, just avoid using a huge range of them to help maintain the simplicity of the image. Of course, as with all rules in photography, there will be exceptions so don’t feel bound by this! A good photo that makes use of simplicity will rarely have more than 2 or 3 elements within the frame. One element could be background and another could be the subject.
- Fill the Frame with the Subject: Another great compositional technique that you can use to create simplicity and effectiveness in your photography is to fill the frame with the subject. Zooming right into the eye of a person or the wheel of a car can capture a powerful yet minimalist style of shot. By doing this you are focusing on one single element of the subject which will give your audience an interesting perspective on something that they may not have seen so clearly before. This will help you to quickly master a strategy of simplicity in photography.
- Using Color to Great Effect in Your Photography when focusing on Simplicity: Color can be used in a few different ways. One approach is to take your shots in black and white which obviously removes all color from the image leaving only the tonal ranges of the subject and the background. This is an interesting technique that remains a favorite among photographers and audiences alike. A second approach you can take is to look for shots that have a single color palette with interesting variations within the frame. This can produce a feeling of Zen like calm in the image. Lastly, you can create photos that incorporate powerful contrasts between two main colors. The best colors to choose for this effect are colors that are opposites on the color wheel. Examples of these kinds of pairs include purple and yellow, blue and orange or red and green. Framing opposites together builds a sense of tension in the image that you can resolve using the composition or subject of the picture.
7 Top Tips for Taking Great Photos Using Simplicity.
There are many ways that you can capture the magic of simplicity in your photography although your own personality and the nature of your genre, project or plans will also determine the types of methods that you gravitate towards. However, there are a number of things that apply universally.
- Simplicity is a State of Mind! Learning to see the world around you through the lens of a clear, uncluttered and simple framework is something that once you figure out you’ll never forget!
- Learn how to use the patterns, shapes and details of the scene to create interesting narratives even when at first glance there appears to be none.
- Always think about how the positive and negative space is interacting in the frame.
- Practice your compositional techniques and try to employ at least one of the major methods in each of your photos to make the most of the simplicity you are trying to capture.
- In a simple photo the subject needs to have meaning and should ideally complete or create a compelling narrative, especially when the subject is a person or animal.
- Make the most of textures, natural patterns and small details in your photography to create points of interest and focus for the audience.
- Be super selective about what gets into your frame! Ensure that you exclude anything and everything that is not strictly needed in the picture – and be ruthless about it!
Simplicity in Photography is a Powerful Technique.
Although it can be difficult to master the use of simplicity in your photography once you have grasped the mindset and practiced in the real world you’ll find yourself enjoying a whole new way of looking at things. Composition and clarity are the most important practical factors you’ll need to employ to create outstanding simplicity in your work. Keeping the frame uncluttered, effective and emotive requires discipline, vision and creativity – but with practise you’ll soon be taking some great photographs that epitomize simplicity in your own unique style.
Is simplicity something you look for in a photograph?