Minimalist Photography – Simple, Beautiful Perspective

Photography and minimalism have been around for quite some time now, but minimalist photography deserves some discussion.  If you’re interested in photography and want to learn more about the minimalist movement in art, I’m going to take a look at some different types and ideas for minimalist photography.

Minimalist photography is capturing the essence of a subject and eliminating the nonessentials.  It has been around since the 1950s as part of the minimalist art movement.  Characteristics include simplicity, isolation, and powerful composition.  

Are you looking to take a powerful picture but uninterested in all of the background noise?  Need some ideas for taking pictures but not sure if minimalist photography will work for you? Learn different types of minimalist photography as well as awards and ideas.

What Is Minimalist Photography?

Minimalist photography is based on the principle of “less is more,” or austere simplicity.  The focus is on a small number of objects, perhaps a single object, rather than multiple colors, subjects, or patterns.  Minimalist photography is capturing the essence of a subject and eliminating what is nonessential.

A Woman Taking A Simple Photo - Minimalist Photography - Gone Minimal
A Woman Taking A Simple Photo

What is the History of Minimalist Photography?

Minimalist photography came about around the mid-20th century, similarly to the larger minimalist art movement, according to faculty members Azuddin, Aziz, and Shafie of Universiti Teknologi MARA. It finds its roots in the early modernist photography of the early 20th century, with photographers like Edward Weston and Paul Strand laying the groundwork for simplicity, strong compositions, and clean lines.

In the 1970s, the New Topographics movement explored minimalist approaches in landscape photography, depicting urban scenes and artificial structures with objectivity. Japanese aesthetics and Zen philosophy contributed to minimalist photography’s growth by embodying the essence of simplicity and meaning. In the digital age, minimalist photography continues to thrive.

Minimalist Photography Characteristics

There are some key things to note when discussing minimalist photography that almost creates a dichotomy.  Minimalists are focused on doing more with less, while photography is about capturing a moment and not necessarily with less.  To merge the two, we discover six characteristics of minimalist photography that set it apart from traditional photography and art.  Here are the key characteristics of minimalist photography:

  1. Simplicity – keeping the eyes interested and focused for impact.
  2. Isolation – the relevance of the subject in the photo and removing distractions.
  3. Powerful composition – the eye rests on the most significant piece in the photo.
  4. Color – not just black and white, but bold colors and contrast.
  5. Lines and shapes – create a guide for the eyes, repetition, or geometry to direct attention.
  6. Negative space – keep the eye moving about in an image but directing it where to focus.

According to authors Sylvia Rakhman and Gredi Gradana Sembada of Telkom University,  photographs document important moments and can last a long time, which are qualities central to minimalism and focus on the things that really matter.  If you’re wondering what minimalist photography looks like, we’ll discuss some examples next.

A Minimalist Vase - Minimalist Photography - Gone Minimal
A Minimalist Vase

Examples of Minimalist Photography

Here are some examples of minimalist photography:

  1. Landscape pictures with a single focus
  2. Abstract photography with geometric shapes or lines repeated
  3. Portrait photography with a single person
  4. Contrasting colors of bricks and a single door
  5. A single tree in the middle of a concrete lot
  6. An empty boat in the middle of a calm lake
  7. A power line with a single bird perched

These are some pretty general examples of what minimalist photography can look like or consist of, but you’re probably ready for some more specific types of minimalist photography.  Keep on reading to learn more.

Black and white minimalist photography is all about contrasting color with objects and shapes.

Types of Minimalist Photography

Urban Minimalist Photography

Urban areas can be very complex with all the different types of buildings, power lines, people, and vehicles.  When it comes to urban minimalist photography, the focus is on distinct angles, repetition of shapes, and contrasting colors, and it can be considered pretty abstract.  For example, think about a single window on the side of a brightly colored building.

Contemporary Minimalist Photography

Contemporary minimalist photography takes pictures of modern buildings, people, or items with a simple view.  It focuses on the interesting angles of an office building or a single person on an escalator.

Black and White Minimalist Photography

Black and white minimalist photography is all about contrasting color with objects and shapes.  It’s high impact and makes a statement even with a single object, like a single evergreen tree in black in the middle of a white snow-covered mountain.

Minimalist Object Photography

Minimalist Food Photography    

Minimalist food photography focuses on a simple dish or a single food item.  For example, a cup of coffee with creamer and a spoon.

A Simplistic Food Photograph - Minimalist Photography - Gone Minimal
A Simplistic Food Photograph

Minimalist Architecture Photography

Minimalist architecture photography focuses on interesting and repeating angles on buildings and windows in walls and contrasts rooflines with a clear blue sky. This type of photography uses simple architectural components that lack decorations.

Minimalist Product Photography

Minimalist product photography focuses on a single product in the field rather than someone using the product.  It’s how you might imagine a single pair of shoes placed on a white box with a white background-the focus is on the product and nothing more.

Landscape Minimalist Photography      

Landscape minimalist photography is a simple focus on living things and nature.  An example would be a field of lavender against a blue sky or a single horse in a grass field.

It’s looking at nature in a simple, breathtaking way, without all the unnecessary elements.

Minimalist Photography of Life

Minimalist Still Life Photography

Minimalist still life photography focuses on simple living or nonliving items in a space.  For example, a couple of seashells on a table in black and white or a single red rose in a white vase with a white background.

Minimalist Portrait Photography

Minimalist portrait photography is an interesting new take on the person as a subject.  It’s a single person, from the front or even behind, with a simple monochromatic background.  From a headshot to a full body, minimalist portrait photography focuses on the person.

A Simple Portrait Photo - Minimalist Photography - Gone Minimal
A Simple Portrait Photo

Minimalist Nature Photography

Nature photography is always interesting and beautiful to look at, and minimalist nature photography makes an even more meaningful impact.  It’s looking at nature in a simple, breathtaking way, without all the unnecessary elements.  It focuses on sunset at the beach or a single bird flying in a gray sky.

Minimalist Travel Photography

Minimalist travel photography is a different way to document your travels.  It’s a picture of a couple of shells on the beach, a loved one sitting on a pier with only water as the background, and the windows of the side of your hotel building against a blue sky.

Minimalist Photography At Home

We take pictures at home all the time, but minimalist photography gives these pictures more meaning.  Imagine snapping a photo while looking down at your dog in a green field or only the clouds in the sky from your back porch. 

A Dog in a Field - Minimalist Photography - Gone Minimal
A Dog in a Field –

Minimalist Photography Awards

Just like with artwork and traditional photography, there are awards available for minimalist photographs.  The Minimalist Photography Awards (MPA) give cash prizes, international recognition, and the title of Minimalist Photographer of the Year.  The BNW Minimalist Photography Prize from B&W Minimalism Magazine also offers cash prizes, publishing in their annual book, and gallery exhibitions.  Even some social media outlets offer contests for the best minimalist photographs with cash or notoriety as the prize.

Minimalist Photography Ideas

Minimalist Photography hashtags

Minimalist photography hashtags are for social media attention and finding like-minded people.  Here are some examples of minimalist photography hashtags:

  1. #minimalist
  2. #photography
  3. #minimalistphotography
  4. #minimalistphotographer
  5. #minimalistinterior
  6. #minimalstyle
  7. #minimalove

If you want incredible minimalist photography, check out this helpful video about how to create photos with the simplest and fewest elements for maximum effect.

Related Insights

How do you take minimalist pictures?

Taking minimalist pictures is about keeping things simple.  There are endless possibilities for minimalist pictures: a single subject and color with an uncluttered background.  Think about a single tree in a field, a lightning bolt against a dark sky, a single rose in a vase.

What is a minimalist shot?

A minimalist shot focuses on one thing in a picture.  It’s the most meaningful thing in the shot, and the focus is on that one item.  There’s no background clutter but subdued color or even a monochromatic theme, and you can’t help but see only that one subject in the shot.

What does a minimalist do with photos?

A minimalist can do many things with photos!  From framing and hanging them to creating a photo album, minimalists can collect photos because they’re usually of the people and things most important to them.

What Real People Enjoy Photographing Most

I asked friends and family to list three objects, scenes, or people they enjoy photographing. (Example: doors, nature, friends/family, pets, food, etc.)   Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the poll.

Object, Scene, or PersonTimes Selected
My children12%
My pets9%
Loved ones6%
My cats9%
My dogs9%
The Object, Scene, or Person Real People Like to Photograph Most

Other Resources:

Final Thoughts

Minimalist photography is not new in the art world, but it is gaining in popularity and exposure.  Through minimal and contrasting colors, single subjects, and uncluttered backgrounds, you can also learn how to create simply minimalist photography.  What will you take a picture of first using the minimalist style?

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