Which types of photographs do you like more, really busy photos with lots of things going on or very simple photos with lots of empty space? I posted this photo called “Simplicity” in my Google+ stream this week and received more plusses than I have on any other photograph. I like all kinds of photographs, and do not have a real preference. Although, looking through my portfolio, I have many more “busy” photos than I do minimalist photos. Many photographers promote the theme of “fill the frame” where the main subject takes up almost the entire photograph.
What is negative space?
Negative space is having a lot of space around your subject, with essentially little or nothing to draw your eyes away from the main subject. Sometimes half or even three-fourths of the photograph will have nothing in it. The photo can be somewhat complex, like a farm or a stand of trees. But, there is still mostly empty space in the photograph. The empty space can be above, below, on the left or right or all around.
In the photograph associated with this post, there is almost nothing to look at. Yes, the sky has soft pastel colors. But, there is little to distract the eye from the field of corn and the single tree.
What is minimalist?
Minimalist or minimalism is having a single subject in your photograph. It can be a single flower on a solid background, or a park bench in the snow with nothing else around. Some of the photographs that I like the best are of bridges, piers or pilings on water that are long exposure images, so that the water looks very soft and plain with a very boring sky. The structure draws the directly eye to it and nowhere else. A minimalist photograph can still fill the frame. The main idea behind minimalism is that there is a single subject and little or nothing else to distract the viewer.
In my photograph, the main subject is the single tree. The tree is alone in a field of corn and perhaps the viewer wonders why the tree is still there. The field of corn is essentially a bottom border because it is fairly uniform. That brings the eye back to the tree.
It seems like a lot of photographs considered to be fine art are minimalist or have a lot of negative space in them. Should we as photographers focus on negative space and minimalist photographs? Let’s have a conversation. What are your thoughts?