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Simplification is a great tool for creating photographs with artistic quality – it stays away from unnecessary/obvious things and helps the image not to be “busy”.

I was searching various blogs and forums about how to simplify photographs. Most of the blogs and articles say the following two things:

  1. Zoom in/ Crop
  2. Use Shallow depth of field

A third tip seen some places is to use low shutter speed, if it is photograph of a lake, sea, etc. But I am not photographing water.

The above two pieces of advice do not add any artistic value, when I see the images. They just include fewer things – but they don’t look simple, albeit the fact that they have fewer elements.

Apart from these trivial bits of advice, what are the composition techniques/guidelines that will help to create simplified photographs?

Note: As you know the word "simple" and "simplified" are pretty much different, when it comes to design and composition.

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Simplification is achieved by removal of elements that would make up a more complex photo so that viewer could pay more attention to the remaining elements. Most often simplification is desired for background, but same methods can also be applied to subject.

There are several options of what elements to remove -

  • details - perhaps the most common route; achieved by deliberate blurring, e.g. panning with a moving object, shallow focus, degraded optics;
  • physical objects - relocation of props or background objects so the undesired items would not participate in composition;
  • colors - using black-and white (or some other restricted color scheme) instead of full color;
  • field of view - getting closer, using a longer focal length, cropping, shooting from behind an obstruction or a less revealing angle;
  • light - leaving parts of composition unlit (or less commonly, oversaturated) will turn those areas into plain single color;
  • individuality of objects - grouping/lining multiple items up, perhaps even pairing up their amount to work against Rule of Odds.
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    +1 for the physical objects - you can't make a 'minimalist/simple' image out of just any old scene that you happen upon, you really need something that is free of distracting elements before you even begin. Often it takes a lot of planning. – James Snell Oct 9 '15 at 10:13
  • +1 as well for pointing out it can be applied to the subject. If the subject is a person, something as simple as having them dress with clothes of a single colour can help – laurencemadill Oct 9 '15 at 10:26

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