The well known saying: ‘Keep it simple stupid’ is well known for a reason – it works. Yes, there are times when lots of compositional elements do work but by creating an almost ’empty’ space, you can actually create a stronger image.
Why Does It Work?
By cutting out clutter, other people etc. you remove potential distractions and it’ll be easier for the viewer of your image to understand what / who your main focus is in the shot and what you’re trying to say.
Just because you’re keeping things simple it doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Actually, with this technique you have to work hard to do the opposite and find a strong subject that can stand up on its own. This becomes even more relevant when you’re using a large amount of space so your subject only takes up a small amount of the frame.
Also, rather than thinking about what to include in your frame, think the opposite and look for items you can remove.
Photo by Peter Bargh.
Here are a few ways you can achieve a minimalist look to your shots:
An obvious way to make your subject stand out is to adjust your aperture so everything in the background is thrown out of focus. You can find more tips on how to do this here: Creative Aperture / Depth Of Field
Studio backgrounds and other material can be used to hide distracting objects inside and while you’re out, use plain walls, fences or if you’re shooting small subjects such as flowers, try taking your own backgrounds with you. On the subject of flowers, you can lower your angle so you’re shooting up at the flower with the sky as your background which can give you a minimalist-style shot. White backgrounds are an obvious choice but don’t think you can’t use some bold, strong colour too (as we’ll explain further down the page).
Space To Breath
When used right, adding space to a shot can work just as well as cropping in close. To find out why sometimes it’s what you leave out of your images that makes them great, read our tutorial: How To Use Negative Space In Your Photos
Photo by David Clapp.
Play With Colour
If your subject and background contrasts your subject will stand out from the shot. You can do this with colour (bright, strong colours work well) or light, using a brighter subject against a darker background and vice versa. Just make sure there are no ‘hot spots’ which will pull the viewer’s eye away.
Also, having a strong colour filling your background that’s the same as your subject can work in some situations or try producing black & white shots which rely on strong subjects and textures to make them interesting. You could even use shapes and colour as your subject, creating a strong composition that fills your frame in the process.
Crop Out Objects
An easy way to remove objects that are at the edge of your frame is to use your zoom to crop them out. You can also use editing software such as Photoshop to crop your images and we have a detailed tutorial on how to use this tool here: Introduction To Photoshop’s Crop Tool
If you find the distracting objects are too close to your subject to crop out, you could use the Clone
Stamp Tool to remove them. You can also remove distracting backgrounds and replace them with plain ones in Photoshop, too.