The natural tendency for a beginner photographer is to try to show as much as possible in their photos. They want to show everything that they’re experiencing at the time. Under the right conditions, a wide-angle shot like that has its place. However, often, the better shot is the one that shows as little as possible. This technique in photography is called minimalism.
Because Less Is More Powerful
Minimalism centers around the idea that less is more powerful. In minimalist photography, the technique is to use as few elements as possible to construct the image, often reducing it down to just one key element.
Stripping the photo down to the bare essentials not only provides for a cleaner, less cluttered image, but it also makes the elements that you do include that much more powerful, that much more part of the story — or the only part of the story. It gives the subject more weight, more attention, and often more detail.
I don’t recall where I heard it first, but someone once said: “No one knows what you left out of the photo.” This is the key point of minimalism, to only show what you want to show, and to show it in its best, most powerful form.
In the following shot, the sunset wasn’t the greatest, and I was watching the groups of people walking out to the lighthouse on the long pier. This one guy all by himself caught my eye, and I captured the photo below. I wanted to convey the loneliness of this one man, by himself, on the half-mile walk out to the lighthouse.
Minimalism can evoke curiosity and wonder in the viewer. This technique is often used to create abstract photos. By getting closer and showing only what you want to show, you can often make the image abstract or semi-abstract. It can make the viewer wonder or think about what they’re looking at. It draws them into being part of the image.
Another aspect of minimalism is that it can be used at times when the lighting isn’t optimum for a standard field of view photo. If the sky is white or dull grey, a wide shot of that tourist location with foreground and background elements isn’t going to look that great. Take, for example, this shot of a location that many, if not most of you have seen before:
With my back pressed up against one leg of the arch, I pointed the 17mm lens up to get as much of the arch as I could without getting any of the ground elements in the photo. There’s almost no difference in the color version of this image as compared to the black and white version; that’s just how gloomy it was. I was almost giddy when I took this photo, because I had planned for it, but I had envisioned a blue sky and white clouds. When I arrived, the sky was cloudless and overcast, almost white. After taking the photo, I think it actually makes the image better, as it’s even more minimal and abstract than I envisioned.
Helps You Concentrate on the Subject and the Background
Minimalism has other benefits also. By eliminating or minimizing as much as possible, you are forced to concentrate more on the subject and the background.
When I shoot a subject, I know that I want to shoot the subject, so I don’t concentrate on it first. I first concentrate on my background. I position the camera so as to get the best background that I can. Of course, you do have to consider the subject angle during this process, but often, moving just a little bit can greatly change the background. Also, consider if you want the background in focus or not.
Minimalism also forces you to pay closer attention to color, contrast, shadows, textures, patterns, and lines. Minimalism can also free you from the standard angle that others may shoot a subject from, as seen with my Gateway Arch photo above.
Forces You to Implement Pleasing Composition
Minimalism encourages you to implement a pleasing composition. Unlike a composition that has multiple elements that can be placed in numerous locations, a single subject often lends itself to just a couple of possible compositions.
Consider balance when using minimalism. Everything in the photo will have more visual weight. Watch the dark areas and light areas and the amount of the image they cover. Consider the balance of the subject to the background, which can either make the subject stand out more or make it blend in. Each can greatly change the mood of the image when the subject is so isolated.
Negative space in a minimal composition can greatly influence the mood of the photo, often adding a feeling of isolation, loneliness, or an indication of the great expanse of space or the relative size of the subject.
Filling the frame with the subject can also aid a minimalist composition by revealing details normally not seen at a normal viewing distance or making the subject larger than life.
Minimalism can also help or guide you in creating an image that tells a story. In December, before we got any lasting snow here in Michigan but while it was still pretty cold, I was at the lake hoping to get a nice sunset (which didn’t happen that night). I observed four girls rollerblading on the pier leading to the lighthouse. It wasn’t the normal thing that you would see this time of year, but it made for a great photo about them enjoying their time out with friends regardless of the weather. It made for a great story that despite the weather, they still got to skate in December.
So whether it’s subject enhancement, mood creation, or indication of scale, minimalism can greatly improve your photos. I wouldn’t say that you always want to go for absolute minimalism, but in the right situation, it can be just the little touch that your photo could use.
When constructing your photo, decide if each element is necessary or not. Ask yourself what each element adds to the photo. If it doesn’t add to the photo, try to eliminate it. Avoid items creeping in on the sides of the frame. Eliminate unwanted items using focal length, positioning, composition, focus, or exposure. You’re in control of the photo, make it a great one.
a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.
You may not think your stuff needs to be reduced- especially if you have lived with a similar amount of things throughout your entire life. You might see your space as normal. With that said- ask yourself the following questions and find out if your home would benefit from a touch of minimalism.
If you feel stressed as you enter your home
Do you feel stress when you enter your room/ home?– If going home fills you with dread because it’s overrun with thigs- this is a sure sign that you need to reduce the items in your space. When you return home after a day at work or from an errand- you should feel a sense of calm as you walk through the door. If you don’t feel this already- getting rid of some things might make you want to go home.
Do you spend a lot of time with your stuff?- How long does it take you to clean your home? If it consumes hours of your time or even a whole day of the week- you probably have too many things. Think of how quickly you could clean if there were no ornaments to move or less furniture to hoover around. If you are constantly tidying up after the people in your home- it’s possible they have too many possessions. If they only had their favourites and the things they use- this would mean less tidying for you.
Do clean spaces bring you joy?– Consider how you feel when you look at a clean, minimised space on Pinterest or in a magazine for instance. If this fills with joy- you may be a secret minimalist at heart.
Do you value/use everything in you space?– If, when you look around- you don’t appreciate everything you see- you know it’s time to clear the path for the things that do make you happy and appeal to you. Give them the space to shine rather than allowing them being buried under things that you don’t really like- or dare I say it- hate.
Do you have things because you feel you ought to?- If your home is filled with items you feel you OUGHT to keep rather than things you WANT to keep- this is a good indicator that you need to minimise. Why do you feel you ought to?
Because it was passed down to you by a family member who has now passed? Would they want you to be unhappy in your home? No.
Because they were gifts? Does the gifter even remember giving it to you? Probably not.
Because these things cost a lot of money? If so- sell them and put the money towards something else you want rather than feel you ought to have in you home.
Do you have the physical space?- Thins about all of the organisational tools you have bought recently. All the boxes and bins to make your stuff fit rather than just cutting it down to an amount that lies comfortably in the space you have. If you run out of room- do you buy another piece of furniture to house the overflow? Are your belongings overflowing from drawers, cupboards, shelves and boxes? If so- this may be the best time to let your space dictate how many things you own.
Would you buy it now?- One of the scenarios The Minimalists suggest is to pretend you are buying the item again- would you pay the same money for it now? If the answer is ‘no’- you likely don’t value it enough to hold onto it.
Husband-and-wife duo SelgasCano’s motto could very well be “Less is more”, just like Mies van der Rohe’s emblematic aphorism, but rather than a minimalist Modernist ethic referring to the German-American master’s efforts to reduce and distill buildings and their components into simple forms, José Selgas and Lucía Cano’s vision of architecture is all about lightweight materials, transparency, openness and respect for nature. The relation and experience with the site – its history, climate and architecture – are also key factors. The Spanish couple hopes to build less to give back more to society. Selgas says, “Our hope for architecture is to build less and less and to give more space to nature in cities, to disappear more and more on behalf of nature. Hopefully, we will see less construction. Scale is super important for us and we don’t understand why buildings have to be as big as they are. If you can make it smaller, it’s always better. The budget is also important, so if we can do something cheaper, we will always do it because it’s sustainable. Sustainability is always related to the budget. Typically, we work with very light materials because they are more sustainable. Transportation, fabrication and energy are related to weight. The heavier it is, the more energy you need to fabricate or move it. We understood many years ago that the lightest things that we can apply to a project are the cheapest in the end.”
In 2017, the couple debuted a large pavilion in the Martell Foundation’s courtyard in Cognac. Their first project in France, it was a site-specific commission that hosted cultural events until summer 2018, when the foundation – dedicated to contemporary creation and savoir-faire in art, design, architecture, craft, fragrance, dance, literature and music – partially reopened prior to the completion of renovations in 2021. True to their philosophy of lightness and cost-effectiveness, they enveloped a twisting and turning steel framework with a high-tech, translucent and undulating material that’s lightweight, strong, easily-available and waterproof developed by French roofing and cladding specialists Onduline to create rippling, flowing, flexible and organic shapes. Recalling traditional Japanese rice paper, this 1-mm thick fiberglass-reinforced polyester resin became a way of playing with paper to make it as rigid as possible. To prevent the paper from blowing away, yellow inflatable cushions filled with water were installed in the gently-vibrating structure, allowing visitors to sit, lean or stretch out in the giant paper forest in which they could get lost. Lightness was also important considering that the pavilion will thereafter be dismantled and reconstructed elsewhere to give it a second life.
Defending the idea that nature must prevail over architecture, SelgasCano’s tunnel-like studio outside Madrid sits on the forest floor, as they attempt to erase the presence of their architecture as much as possible. In harmony with its natural surroundings, their pavilion in summer 2015 for the 15th anniversary of the Serpentine Galleries’ world-renowned commission – a temporary site for architectural experimentation in Kensington Gardens by the world’s greatest architects – embraced the park while exploring how to use a single material in a structural way. They unveiled an irregular, organically-shaped, double-skinned structure consisting of multicolored, translucent or mirrored fluorine-based polymer (ETFE) ribbons and panels resembling stained-glass windows stretched across a steel frame. The aim was for the design to connect with nature, feel like part of the landscape and allow visitors to experience architecture through simple elements: light, shadow, lightness, transparency, form, color, materials, sensitivity, change and surprise.
A few kilometers east of the Serpentine in Spitalfields, the practice has designed the interiors of Second Home, a revolutionary curated workspace for London’s creative industries, marrying structural hardwood plywood and plasterboard partitions, second-hand designer furniture, and potted plants and hanging foliage. Amidst a relaxed, home-environment vibe with mirrored panels and white corrugated plastic, start-up workers sitting in comfy sofas and mismatched lounge chairs tap away on their laptops enclosed in pods with wavy, see-through acrylic walls. In Lisbon, in an “L” shape wing of the Mercado da Ribeira, a popular 19th-century landmark with iron-cast trusses in the roof, the architects created a café lounge area and one big open office space with a 100-meter-long table shared by 250 people containing 1,000 plants for privacy and improved air quality for Second Home. To reduce the market building’s energy consumption, they eliminated the air-conditioning and created a radiant floor for cooling and heating to accompany the natural ventilation controlled by motors and conventional greenhouse system parts. SelgasCano has completed another Second Home office in London, this time in Holland Park (formerly the home of Richard Rogers’ first architectural practice), and is now working on an ambitious, sprawling 90,000-sqft co-working campus in Hollywood, Los Angeles, with 60 oval-shaped yellow work pods scattered around a garden, whose transparent curved walls allow 360-degree horizontal views of the 6,500 plants and 400 full-size trees, giving the feeling of working amidst nature.
“It’s fundamental to be super free in every step in architecture,” explains Selgas about his firm’s architectural approach. “The only main constraint that you have is the budget. Freedom is related to the budget. But if you know how to control the budget, you can do whatever you want. We try to be super open to all ideas, possibilities, materials, colors. We’re not trying to use new materials like plastics; we just have the freedom to use whatever material we want. It’s the same with color. We don’t really focus on the color, but we can use whatever color we want. When we suddenly use yellow, we get noticed because it’s unusual. That freedom to be open to everything is the main philosophy of the studio.”
Not one to shy away from low-tech materials, the architects’ buildings are often constructed from cheap, off-the-shelf components, such as extruded plastic sheeting and corrugated metal, and adopt a social and community dimension. Their Konokono Vaccination and Educational Clinic in Turkana, Kenya, for the area’s nomadic and pastoral population scattered across desert territory examined the possibilities of working with scarcity or practically nothing, using whatever few materials were on hand in the middle of sub-Saharan Africa. The goal was to use common materials in innovative ways, and to achieve the maximum with the minimum by creatively reacting to a specific material (or even the lack of material). Designed together with 10 MIT students on a study trip, the small medical center was built in summer 2014 by SelgasCano, the course students and many local inhabitants who were paid for their labor. The client had ruled out the use of indigenous materials such as adobe and thatch as they were too expensive to install and maintain, so they came up with an ingenious lightweight construction that could withstand harsh elements, incorporating cement blocks for the walls of the consultation and vaccination room, a structural system of scaffolding poles held in place by adjustable clamps, warped metal sheeting for the roof and low circular exterior stone walls.
Another socially-focused SelgasCano project was the commission to design the 2015 summer pavilion of Copenhagen’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art for an exhibition. The initial design and materials were funded by the museum, built together with design studio Helloeverything (three of the architects’ former students when they were teaching at MIT in Boston), then dismantled and shipped to Kibera in Kenya, Africa’s largest slum, and reconstructed with the help of local laborers as a building for the existing dilapidated Kibera Hamlets School for children from high-poverty and high-violence backgrounds. Made from universally-available scaffolding components, chipboard and polycarbonate plastic sheets and showing architecture’s imperative for adaptability, the building financed by Second Home has become a landmark for the local community because in addition to a school, it has become a venue for events and attracts donors and charities. “It was also about trying to draw attention to the wasted materials that you see in museums and exhibitions,” notes Selgas. “In places like the slums of Kibera or around the world, there’s no waste. We had some leftover polycarbonate sheets that are strong, light, waterproof and translucent that we gave away, and people used them immediately in their houses. Even the metal sheets from the former school that you thought couldn’t be used anymore as they were completely broken were reused. There’s no waste in these areas.”
Currently working on close to 20 projects, Selgas and Cano keep their studio deliberately small, choosing never to have more than 15 employees in order to be hands-on in every stage of their projects, seeing through the entire process from concept to delivery. Selgas describes how they work together, “There are no defined roles. There’s no kind of leadership in any project. We mix everything on every project. The architects in our studio can move from one project to another very easily, entering at different phases and giving their input. We love that kind of chaos because it’s very useful for us – it gives us always the opportunity to discover new things. We have more possibilities to be open to new ideas and to not repeat ourselves. That flexibility in a project and in a studio is very important. That’s why our studio is small and we want to keep it like that because we believe in close relationships on every project. We also have to be engaged in construction. If you’re a chef, how can you just create a recipe and not cook? You need to cook to see if it’s good or not.”
Both born in Madrid in 1965, the two met and fell in love studying architecture at the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid and graduated in 1992. Selgas went on to work for Italian architect Francesco Venezia in Naples, and Cano with her three brothers and father, renowned Spanish architect Julio Cano Lasso. Subsequent to winning the competition for a major development, Badajoz Auditorium and Congress Center in Spain, situated in a former circular bullring inserted into a pentagonal 17th-century bastion, they decided to establish their own firm in 1998. They have since completed another two vast congress halls in Spain experimenting with reflection and transparency, bulkiness and weightlessness: one resembles an amorphous, cantilevering and translucent crystalline meteor in the rolling hills in Plasencia that tries to preserve as much of the landscape as possible while acting like a lighthouse for the city, the second a light-filled harborfront box through which brightly-colored ramps and staircases zigzag in Cartagena.
When asked which of their schemes best reflect who they are as architects, Selgas replies, “The buildings that we’re working on right now are the ones we’re most excited about because when they’re finished, they’re finished. Typically, we hate to go back to the buildings that we have done because they’re not part of us anymore. We don’t see the projects as belonging to us.” Now they’re collaborating with Philippine real estate developer Robbie Antonio to build Casa A for Revolution Precrafted, which unites over 80 preeminent architects, artists and designers including Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, Daniel Libeskind, Christian de Portzamparc, Sou Fujimoto, Kengo Kuma, the Campana Brothers, Marcel Wanders, Tom Dixon, Ron Arad, Lenny Kravitz, Kenneth Cobonpue and Daphne Guinness to create an exclusive series of modern prefabricated, livable spaces ranging from houses and hotels to restaurants and museums that may be installed anywhere in the world. In partnership with Helloeverything, the 45-sqm, highly-versatile transformer house is suitable for warm or cold climates,as it incorporates a series of elevated bays with embedded motion control that opens and closes, expanding and contracting according to its environment, while custom material enclosure elements may be attached to a standard structural system.
Other important projects include a school for a slum in Mathare in Nairobi, Pip House in Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon with a hint of the 1960’s bohemian lifestyle set on a such a steep slope that the top of the dwelling meets the road and the roof garden doubles as a carpark, the renovation of a building for public policy think tank Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles, and two edifices consisting of a market hall and workplaces for the new purpose-built, one-hectare Greenwich Peninsula design district for over 1,800 of London’s creatives by developer Knight Dragon, which will answer the call for more affordable workspaces in the capital in one of its largest regeneration projects. SelgasCano was one of the eight architecture studios that were asked to design a pair of buildings independently and blind from each other to create diversity for the fully-pedestrianized district, which will house human-scaled workshops, artist studios and flexible desk space set around a series of courtyards and a central public square when it opens in 2020.
The is the most basic sport watch you could ever buy. It tells the time. It has an alarm and a stopwatch. And that’s about it. But if your workouts don’t require any high-tech accessorizing, a retro-style Casio can’t be beat.
Battery life: solar powered
Ironman GPS Watch
Timex’s Ironman GPS sport watch covers all the basics at a sub-$100 price tag. It’s best for runners, with metrics on distance covered, pacing alerts, and lap time. It’ll even tell you when to hydrate. It’s also water resistant up to 50 meters, in case you have a real Ironman Triathlon in mind.
Battery life: 12 hours
M200 Sports Watch
This is an excellent, budget-conscious sport watch. Polar lets you choose target distances for running, and gives you GPS tracking to log your miles. Plus, its included heart rate training will get you to your desired activity level. Plenty of other features make it a smart buy.
Battery life: 6 days
Versa Lite Smartwatch
Fitbit makes a few very good Versa smartwatches geared toward fitness, but the Lite is the least expensive of the lot. But that doesn’t mean it skimps on features. Use it for tracking heart rate, sleep, distance, and steps—i.e. all the basics.
Battery life: 4 days
Steel HR Sport Smartwatch
Withings has a range of sport watches that hardly look like sport watches, the Steel HR included. Alongside the traditional watch face, it’ll track your activity with multiple metrics and make sure you’re performing at your peak level by estimating your VO2 Max. And the battery life is killer.
Battery life: 25 days
Falster 2 Black Silicone Smartwatch
Skagen channels Scandinavian design with a sport watch that is both minimalist and stylish, as well as super smart. That clean watch face will give you stats powered by Google, GPS, and internal trackers. For a sport watch that transitions seamlessly to an office watch, this is a great option.
Battery life: 24 hours
Spartan Sport GPS Watch
This watch is brazenly sporty, from its brightly colored silicone band to the sturdy stainless steel face. It tracks everything, in addition to coming pre-loaded with 80 different modes to match the activity you’re doing, whether it be swimming or skiing.
Battery life: 8 hours
Movado Connect Smartwatch
The Movado Connect is highly customizable, with more than 100 different dial settings. It’s also nearly as good as having a smartphone strapped to your wrist, with fitness tracking, push alerts for messages, music, and more, and Google Assistant. The screen quality is remarkable, too.
Battery life: 24 hours
Forerunner 645 Music
The Forerunner 645 isn’t messing around. It delivers the kinds of stats only serious runners could understand and monitors heart rate from your wrist. You can download music onto it and activate Garmin Pay so that you don’t need to bring your phone or your wallet during a run. And it’s absolutely packed with other features.
Battery life: 7 days
Apple Watch Series 4 (GPS + Cellular)
Apple brings cellular connectivity to the sport watch arena. If it’s worth it to you to pay for phone functionality, you’ll also get all of those nice Apple fitness specs: an ECG monitor, workout trackers, personalized coaching, and Apple Music streaming, to name a few.
Battery life: 18 hours
Sarah Rense is the Associate Lifestyle Editor at Esquire.com, where she covers tech, home, food, drink, and more.