I adore minimalist photography.
The lines, color, texture and negative space that characterize this genre of photography really speak to me. I also find it to be a calming artistic outlet amidst the chaos that is life with three young children.
However, achieving minimalist images of my girls, that tell a story and really have heart, has been a challenge for me. I would often spot a blank wall or architectural detail that would create a fabulous backdrop for a minimalist photo, but when I posed my subject there my images fell flat. I ended up with images of my girls that felt sterile and un-emotive.
Through trial and error, I have come up with the following tips for taking memorable and personal photos of children while still adhering to the simplicity of minimalist photography.
1. Include a prop.
I don’t know about your kids but mine would do just about anything for an ice cream cone. I have found that giving my kids a treat like an ice cream cone, a favorite toy or a snack can allow my images to tell a story while still maintaining the minimalist aesthetic.
My subjects are more cooperative, happy and engaged when they are interacting with a prop, which results in a more genuine and meaningful photo. Props also encourage children to have fun, which is always a good thing. I suggest you embrace emotion even though minimalist photography is typically a genre that shies away from it.
2. Capture movement.
My kids are always moving. Including movement in a minimalist image adds interest while also helping to tell the story of my children’s current stages.
For example, my oldest daughter loves to dance, so I take a lot of photos of her twirling in front of blank walls. These are much more meaningful and engaging than if she was just standing in front of said wall. Be it running, skateboarding or jumping – think about what your kid loves to do and try to incorporate it into your image.
3. Consider the wardrobe.
In minimalist photography, less is more. You want to include clothing that pops against the background or in some cases clothes that blend but you never want the clothing to distract from the image. The clothing choices in a minimalist image are particularly noticeable because there are so few additional details in the image.
Choosing clothes that have simple, bright colors can really help add contrast to a minimalist image. My very favorite dresses for my girls at the moment are by Alice and Ames. They are comfy, twirly, everyday dresses that come in bright, solid colors that really pop against a simple background without including a print or logo that could distract from the simplistic nature of the image. Pay attention to what your kids are wearing because their outfit can really make or break an image.
4. Encourage connection.
Quite often a minimalist image is made up of only your subject and a simple background. Having your subject interact and physically connect with the environment in your image can help strengthen the image by allowing the audience to engage other senses, such as touch while viewing the image. This is also something my children do naturally and it keeps them occupied, which makes them more comfortable and relaxed in front of the camera.
I will often ask my daughter if the wall I am using in my image is smooth or rough. Sometimes I ask her to climb a set of stairs and count how many there are. When interacting with their environment, children forget they are being photographed which tends to yield photos more representative of their personality. Also, connecting with the environment makes the subject appear as though they belong, creating a more cohesive image.
5. Don’t wait for golden hour.
Life happens outside of golden hour. I have more images than I care to admit of my kids looking grumpy because I got them up early or kept them out late to catch the beautiful light. The great thing about minimalist child photography is that you can make it work well in any type of light.
If I am taking photos in full sun, I make sure I meter for the highlights. I will quite often have my subjects look away from the camera to avoid unflattering shadows on their face. I take many of my minimalist images in open shade. Open shade is a nice respite from the harsh sun and can easily be found earlier in the day during hours that my kids are most willing to be photographed.
The greatest thing I have discovered by taking photos earlier in the day when the sun is high is the shadows. Look for interesting shadows being cast by trees, buildings, people or other objects on walls and photograph your subject against them. Shadows are a great way to add a bit of interest to minimalist images.
Next time you’re out shooting, use these tips to help you to capture memorable minimalist child photography that showcases personality while embracing the ideals of a simple frame. Leave me your best minimalist photography tips in the comments!
Photos by Karlee Hooper