studio portrait of a blonde model

Why Less Is More

In high school we had a history of arts teacher who would shout ”LESS IS MORE!” every time we had her class. But who thought about it at the time? I certainly didn’t and never have expected to enroll in an art academy.

Fast-forward to year 2015. and I’m here writing this post because less is more has truly become my motto. It means something along the lines of less elements = more impact, and it’s a leading thought I always try to follow whenever in doubt.

Think about the way you react when you see an image for the first time.

What does your eye notice immediately?

Probably it’s either a lighter part of the image or, as we can see from looking at billboards and posters, something that stands out: a large font, bold colour or vice versa. It all depends how it’s used and what dominates on the image.

In design it’s all about mixing and matching different elements together – smaller and bigger text, sans-serif fonts with serifs, big objects with smaller ones – while creating harmony and emphasizing the important. The same principle can be applied to photography also.

studio portrait of a blonde model
In this photo with photographer Karmen Poznić, I used the less is more approach. It was shot with one light and the model is posing with a lacy bralet and her hand over her face, creating mystery. The background is clean and there are no distracting elements anywhere.

The perfect embodiment for this are the black and white fashion photographs shot by Louise Dahl-Wolfe. Rather than forcing a myriad of elements onto a single image, she focused on in-depth understanding of black and white photography and the striking elegance of the models. Her images look graphic, while still maintaining hues of grays.

And no wonder! She had studied painting, figure drawing and design before immersing herself in photography.

twins at the beach by louise dahl wolfe
Twins at the beach by Louise Dahl-Wolfe are a beautiful example of creating impact with the simplest means.  (Source)

Of course, this approach doesn’t imply everybody should work in the same way. One of my favourite photographers, Tim Walker, is well known for his grandiose setups. Carefully crafted and placed, they create interest instead of causing distraction and confusion. This theatrical way of capturing images requires a great deal of pre-planning and compositional skills and I applaud him for that.

But for photographers who don’t have a giant team to work with on their shoot, keeping a balance between clutter and interest is important and I would suggest to anybody to follow the less is more rule whenever uncertainty strikes.

photographer self portrait with cameraAbout the author
Hi! I’m Isabella and I’m a photographer, blogger and applied arts graduate. I love spending my time creatively, or watching movies, drinking tea, playing with my cats and hanging out with friends.
Find me here isabellabubola.com or on Facebook and say hello!

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