Keep It Simple - tyneholm
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Keep It Simple

Assignment L05

Excluding distractions and keeping compositions as simple and straightforward as possible is always good practice in photography – it is easier to create order and a sense of structure with only the bare essentials in the frame.

The natural extension of this is Minimalism, a formal style that emerged in art and architecture in the 1960’s, which pares down a composition to its essentials – usually clean, simple lines and shapes. Minimalist studies often feature just a single subject, placing emphasis on the ‘negative space’ around it. In some examples, the negative space becomes the subject itself. This exercise aims to develop your ability to keep things as simple as possible and to hone in on the essential elements in the scene.

One approach for this assignment would be to take a single-subject – for example, a tree, a barn, or a jetty – and try positioning it in different parts of the frame. Be bold with your placement; try putting the subject smack in the middle of the frame or tucked into a corner rather than on the more conventional intersection of thirds. You will probably find there is one position for the subject in which it most seems to suit the scene. Try to work out why – often it will be to do with how the subject relates to the negative space around it.

View the images


  • Long exposures work well with minimalist images as they smooth out the texture in water and sky.
  • Experiment with different aspect ratios; Square ratios such as 5:4 or 1:1, often help with minimalist compositions.
  • Look for geometric lines and shapes that help with simple compositions.
  • Colour can distract, so look for muted tones – dull weather provides good conditions for this style.

Field Notes

  • Use of negative space is key to successful minimalist images, often being as important as the subject itself. Make sure it forms an interesting shape around the subject and has consistent tone and texture – too much colour and complex texture can introduce unwanted distractions.
  • Subject choice is important. Man-made objects, such as piers or buildings, often work well, but there is plenty of choice in the natural world. Search for objects with interesting shapes that can be isolated against a simple background.