A few years ago I started the Minimal Daily Instagram page (@minimal.daily). It was just a page where I find interesting minimalist photos on Instagram and curate it in the feed while also crediting the original poster. It was just a simple page but slowly it grew to more than 15,000 followers now.
From these few years of going around Instagram and looking for the best minimalist photos, I have developed an eye for what I think is a great minimalist photo. So I want to share my knowledge on what I believe are the 14 quick tips to take minimalist photos for Instagram or mobile photography in general.
So get your iPhones and your Android shooters ready, and let’s dive in.
14 Easy Tips to Take Minimalist Photos for your Instagram
1. Add Negative Space
Negative space in photography simply means the spaces around and between the subject(s) you are taking. Adding negative space adds a sense of minimalism and serenity as opposed to chaos. It can make the subject stand out much more without occupying the whole image.
An easy way to do this is to make sure your subject does not take up more than 50% of your photo. Many popular Instagram pages go even further and limits their subjects to only 1/9th of the picture. A way to do is to add a 3×3 grid on your smartphone camera setting (most smartphones can do this), and make sure your subject is no bigger than a grid.
You can compose negative space during the picture taking process or alternatively you can snap your subject from a distance, and do the cropping work after. However, do keep in mind that smartphone camera pictures when cropped tend to be of much lower quality.
Do these simple steps and you’re on your way to becoming the best negative space astronaut of all time.
2. Limit Colors
Colors make up the mood of your photos. They are fun and great. However, too many colors can give a sense of harshness to the overall look and feel of the image. Limiting the colors will make your image look cleaner and much more in order.
A good way to do this in my experience is to limit the colors to about 5. For example, the skin tone color, black, white, the color of your clothes and the color of the background. The less colors the better. However, be mindful that if you use too few, it might make your images look bland. Try to find the right balance.
Popular Instagram pages sometimes also achieve this by using software like Adobe Photoshop to manually replace the unwanted colors in their images.
3. Go Monochrome
If you can’t get the hang of colors, go monochrome! Monochrome just means black and white. It is a very well known style and very popular with street photography. You can’t really go more minimal with having only 2 colors (in technical terms, black and white are not even colors!).
You can easily achieve this by using a black and white filter built in with Instagram. However, I suggest using another free app called VSCO. It has better black and white filters in my opinion.
You can also go all monochrome for your entire feed. A lot of successful pages do this. When people land on your page, a black and white themed feed can stand out from the rest as probably more than 90% of the entire Instagram community have colored feeds.
4. Plain Background
A subject in front of an empty or plain background photos are not going anywhere among Instagrammers anytime soon. They are exceptionally great for portrait pictures as it helps the subject stand out.
This is very quick and simple to do. Just find any empty wall. Ideally a newly painted one. Any color would do. Make sure the lighting is right, then snap away. An easy mistake is to just take the subject in front of the wall without the right framing. You don’t want the wall edges or other elements next to or above the wall to be visible. The trick is to keep the whole wall in the frame. You can also do this by cropping in the post editing process.
5. Less Is More
I know it is very tempting to take a picture that includes everything. However, less elements in a picture adds to the minimalist and less cluttered look of the image.
Instead of taking a picture of a crowd, take a picture of an individual. Instead of buildings, take only a structure. Instead of a forest, just a tree. This will make your image look less chaotic.
6. Delicious Bokeh (Background Blur)
Since ages ago and even until now, most professional photographers care very much about the background blur or also known as Bokeh. The Bokeh effect is traditionally achieved by having a large aperture (opening of the lens). However, recently most new smartphones are able to achieve this artificially by using a two camera setup. The cameras detect the distances between the background and the subject, and works out the blur.
Before getting too technical, a background blur will help make your pictures more minimal by reducing the distractions in the background. It is a great tool to create a a minimalist photo while not necessarily having a plain background.
If you have a two camera smartphone, you can use the built-in portrait mode or selective focus mode to achieve this. You can adjust the amount of blur you want. Just try not to go overkill on the Bokeh as like I mentioned, the background blur on smartphones is artificial which if done incorrectly can look really unnatural.
7. Lines, Patterns And Simple Geometric Shapes
A great way to make your images minimal while not look too plain is to have geometric shapes, patterns or lines in them. There is something about them that makes your images pop while not looking crowded. It might be that our human mind register patterns as one thing, thus processes them less intensely from other random shapes.
There are plenty of places to find these elements. You just have to be aware. Among the places you can find these is at most modern architecture buildings. They usually have a lot of interesting geometric shapes. Other places include multi story car parks, train stations, and basically most places if you pay attention.
8. The Sky Is Your Friend
If you can’t find any good background, just use the sky! It’s very simple but effective.
Ideally take a photo when the sky is not cloudy. A clear sky looks the most minimal. Take the photo from a rooftop or somewhere high. You can also take the subject from a lower point of view, pointing slightly up, with nothing obstructing the sky in the back.
9. Partial Subject
This tip works really well with buildings and structures. Taking just part of the subject reduces the whole complexity of it.
A good way to do this is to pay attention to the part of the subject that seems simple and not too complicated and only take a picture of that part. Again, you can also do this by cropping the picture in post editing.
Symmetric images works almost like patterns. They convey a sense of order and simplicity. A very famous example of a recurring user of symmetric imagery is the award-winning director Wes Anderson. Most of Anderson’s movies are visually considered to be very minimalist.
It is very simple to achieve a symmetric image for you Instagram. Firstly, find something with a symmetry and stand facing the mid point (axis of symmetry) and just shoot straight. It can be buildings, fountains, houses or even people’s faces.
11. Contrasting Subject
Contrast in photography generally refers to the range difference in tones in a photograph. In this particular point, I am talking about the color difference between the subject and background. This is a very powerful tool to add emphasis on the subject, and also make the whole image more minimal.
One way to do this basically to have the subject being in a particular color while finding a background that has a different color. Using opposing colors or also know as complimentary colors work really well.
12. Take From Above
Taking photos from above gives a sense of orderliness. This is great for minimalist food photography.
This also works great for just about anything that’s on a table, or on the floor.
To achieve this just take the photo from a standing position and make sure you are taking the photo as parallel to the table as possible. You can also stand on a chair to get a higher view. However, please do not do this in public as I don’t want to be responsible for a new millennial craze.
Other than giving a mysterious look to the subject, silhouette images makes a great minimalist photo. Because of the dark subject, it naturally eliminates the complexity of it.
To do this, place the subject is standing in front of a source of light. Also, make sure light is only coming from that direction.
14. Do Not Over Edit
The final tip is not really a “how to take” tip, but much more an “after you take” tip. However, this is very important as a lot of people tend to make this mistake. Adding some contrast, adjusting the brightness and colors of the photo is great. However, if too much it can looks messy rather than minimal.
Instagram filters look terrible for minimalist photographers in my opinion. Opt for free apps like VSCO or Snapseed. They do a better job in my experience. Furthermore, try not to edit in multiple apps because most apps compress the image file at each output which will lead to your final image becoming low quality. If you are serious about your Instagram feed, using a desktop software like Adobe Lightroom can help you further.
It might sound cliché but practice will make you better with time. However, if you follow these 12 steps, I’m pretty sure you will be on the right track and your Instagram feed will be poppin in no time! Also, do follow Minimal Daily on Instagram (@minimal.daily) to see regularly curated minimalist Instagram photos.