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A minimalist portrait can be a beautiful image. Though relatively simple to accomplish, making minimalist portraits does require some effort to do correctly.
Portrait photography is full of possibilities and potential pitfalls. Some of the most common pitfalls include distracting elements, distracting backgrounds, and poor lighting or exposure.
A minimalist portrait is exemplified by what’s not in the portrait as much as what is in it. Certain portrait photography techniques lend themselves naturally to minimalist portraits. Let’s look at a few.
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A good portrait captures the viewer’s attention and leaves them wanting more. One of the best portrait photography tips that helps us accomplish that is selective focus. Selective focus is where the intended subject is all that’s sharply in focus with everything else being at least somewhat out of focus.
You may have also heard of another term related to selective focus, bokeh. Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of out of focus parts of the image, particularly the highlights or points of light. A lens with pleasing bokeh will render these bright spots as a sort of background that is perfect for minimalist portraits.
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Bokeh can also refer to darker out-of-focus elements, but those aren’t nearly as noticeable as the bright spots. They can still be an important part of what goes into a minimalist portrait.
You can achieve selective focus by several means. First and foremost is choosing a wide-open aperture or f-stop. The wider the aperture, the narrower the depth of field. Using a short telephoto lens helps out as well. Getting physically closer to the subject also creates less depth of field.
Doing all three of those things at once will virtually guarantee effective selective focus. This technique will separate your portrait subject from the background for a great minimalist portrait.
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Light Your Subject Properly
Choosing the right lighting technique can go a long way towards making great minimalist portraits. Some lighting techniques that will help make minimalist portraits include split lighting, loop lighting, Rembrandt lighting, and rim lighting.
One of the best things about these portrait lighting techniques is that they can all be set up with a single light. A portable, battery powered LED light like the Hakutatz Pocket size RGB LED Light is an excellent choice for minimalist portraiture.
The Hakutatz LED light is a good choice for minimalist portraits for several reasons. Some of the reasons include the multiple color capabilities and the fact that it can be used with smartphones and virtually any other type of camera.
Expose for High Key or Low Key
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In high key photography, the majority of the image is brightly lit, in low key, the opposite is true. While this can be made easier by proper lighting, these are actually exposure techniques more than anything else.
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For high key photography, you expose for the shadows, letting the highlights build up. With low key photography, you expose for the highlights, letting the shadows bunch up.
Both of these exposure techniques are perfect for minimalist portraiture. The highlights or shadows effectively isolate the subject for a minimalist portrait.
Concentrate On a Single Color
You can do this in several different ways. Using a single color backdrop is an effective method for creating portrait photography that capitalizes on a simple color theme.
If you don’t actually have different color backgrounds, you can make them with colored lights. The Hakutatz LED light can be set to emit any number of different colors. So, if your subject is wearing red hues, light up the background with a red glow.
In addition to the colored light, exposing for high key or low key are other methods for capturing variation in the minimalist portrait.
Keep Extra Elements Simple
A basic portrait technique for any style of portraiture is to keep any extra things in the image simple. In other words, instead of an ornate chair, use a simple wooden chair. Instead of an elaborate costume, have them wear a simple dress.
There’s nothing wrong with adding other or more complicated visual elements to our portraits, but if we decide on that, then we’re no longer shooting a minimalist portrait.
Edit As Black and White
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If you’ve done several of these other methods, a final technique that yields truly minimalist imagery is using a post processing program to convert your image to B&W.
This works especially well with high key and low key exposure techniques. A black and white portrait calls to mind a time period when everything seemed more simple, less hectic. Provide your portrait subject with a Black & White picture and they will likely wax nostalgic about your awesome picture.
It Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated
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It doesn’t have to be complicated to make a minimalist portrait. All it really takes is creative focus, exposure, and lighting techniques. Taking a little extra effort to ensure an uncomplicated photo, your portraits will stand out as interesting and desirable.