Minimalism: a style or technique that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity. m-w.com
Simplicity is Divine
People often make things more complicated than they need to be. And that’s especially true with photography.
Many photographers are technically oriented and can go on and on about their gear and the pros and cons of each piece. Nevermind the art of it.
Others are gearheads, always seeking out new pieces to add to their already large photography equipment collection. What they have is never quite enough.
But in both cases I prefer simplicity over complexity. Less really is more.
Traditional Idea of Minimalism in Photography
Some people think of minimalistic photography in terms of what’s actually captured in an image. Traditionally, a minimalistic photo has very few elements in it. It’s simple and clean. And a minimalistic photographer could be described as one who takes only images that adhere to this philosophy.
My Version of Minimalism
Then there’s my version of minimalism as it pertains to photography.
For me, being a minimalist photographer has less to do with the outcome than the means to get there. I define photo minimalism as using only what you need to still create images you love.
I’ve always been a pretty lean photographer, so I prefer to carry as little as possible. I like to shoot on the go and spend just as much time in the moment as capturing the moment.
Less gear = less fuss = more enjoyment.
What Photo Gear Do You Actually Need?
With so many advances in digital photography technology, it’s easy to think you need to upgrade to the latest and greatest. And in the beginning this was probably true. My first digital camera was pretty pathetic and I think I can only make prints up to 8×10″.
But now that digital has caught up (and some say surpassed) film photography, once you purchase your core items, you’ll rarely need to upgrade. Though a couple of exceptions I can think of would be if 1) you couldn’t afford the gear you wanted in the beginning and you’re ready to upgrade or 2) you weren’t sure which pieces you’d need to best shoot the subjects you photograph most so it makes sense to swap out.
So what do you actually need to make beautiful images? At the most basic level, I’d argue you only need two things: a camera and you.
What Gear is Good to Have
Of course you’re not going to take a bunch of stellar images with just a camera, especially if your only camera happens to live on your phone.
Don’t get me wrong, though. The phones nowadays are capable of capturing images quite well. Especially if that’s the only camera you have on you.
What I’m saying is that your abilities will certainly expand as you have better and more gear – but only up to a certain point. I think once you go beyond the essentials, a lot of your gear becomes filler and will go unused most of the time.
Some equipment, like tripods, are considered must haves for landscape photographers. And it’s true that there are times you simply won’t be able to take the same images as someone who does have extra gear for that purpose.
But sometimes you really can do without and I think it’s helpful to take a moment to really examine what you’ll use, what gear you really need and then forget the rest.
My setup is pretty simple. I rely on 1 camera body, have ever only owned 3 lenses and do the majority of my editing in Lightroom. That’s the essence of what makes up my photography.
Do I want more lenses? Sometimes. I know I don’t own the best gear. But I make it work for me and it almost pushes me more when I know I have to work with what I have.
I do also have a few accessories to round out my collection of gear, but on the whole, that’s it. I can carry everything I need in one bag and still make images I’m happy with.
The Bottom Line
The biggest thing I hope for you to take away is that you don’t necessarily need a lot of gear in order to create gorgeous images. You do, however, need the right pieces and know how to use them.
The right pieces will vary person to person based on what you like to shoot, but I fully believe that if you’re not a professional photographer and just want to make images you love without all the fuss, you’ll be good to go with only 1 camera body, about 3 lenses and 1 image-editing software program.