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Minimalist Photography

Lesson 5 of 27

Isolating Your Anchor

Curtis Jones

Minimalist Photography

Curtis Jones

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Lesson Info

5. Isolating Your Anchor
Every scene has something that speaks to each photographer. Learn to identify a strong subject and build your clean composition around it.

Lesson Info

Isolating Your Anchor

now that we've talked about negative space and we've talked about visual distractions and removing all that clutter. It's time to talk about how to best isolate our subject and how to create a strong clean image around that subject and use it as an anger just as there are many ways to remove distractions in the frame. There are many ways to isolate your anchor. Use a telephoto lens, change your perspective, get high, get low, moved to a different angle. All of this stuff can be done in the field so that you don't have to do when you get home. So I'm gonna start with showing you the final photograph of a series of photos that I took because I want you to see that this is the point I eventually got to, but it wasn't really, really easy or instantly recognizable to me that this was the image I wanted to create. In fact, this image from the Canadian rockies in Alberta a couple winters ago, really tested my patience and I had to revisit the location several times over a weekend before it be...

came clear and a little more obvious. So hopefully this series of images kind of helps you guys, so you don't run into a similar situation. The image itself is really simple and basic. It's a nice angular rocky outcrop against a beautiful blue lake with just a little bit of ice forming up in the foreground and some fresh fresh snow. I think it's bold. I think it really pops off the screen and it's also very clean and simple, but that's not how the image started. I first spotted this tree against Blue Lake from the car roadside. I had my girlfriend stopped the car. I jumped out with the camera and I rushed down over this embankment to see what I could find. And I instantly just ran into like a multitude of brambles and trees and lost a boot and tripped up and kind of rolled barrel rolled down the hill. And this is one of the first images that I took out of all that chaos. You get a chaotic photo and it's not really clear what it is. I want you to look at it. It's kind of clear that I want you to focus on that yellow tree in the middle. There's a lot of stuff going on though. There's a lot of distraction here. So we're gonna see if we can clean that up. I want to isolate my anchor, which is the tree. Now, I will say that I've moved away from this yellow tree and I found other trees that were easier to isolate. And that's one of the key takeaways here is that if a subject is just not working and you can't really isolated cleanly See if you can find another subject. And that's what I did. This is another image I took. I just rotate it myself To the right. I moved over maybe five or 10 ft and I saw that there was a cleaner stand of trees on this rock outcropping here against the lake and against the sort of snowy, hazy background was instantly cleaner to me in my eye. So I knew at least there was like a rabbit to chase here and that I could isolate this anger secondary to the trees. I noticed that line and how it snakes in there from the bottom, right, and hits that nice angle of rock and goes back up to the top, right. So, I really wanted to see if I could work that snow and that ice in there as well. This is a cleaner version of that. Again, I'm isolating, I'm isolating. I'm honing in on the subject. The subjects becoming more clear to me as we go along. It's gonna be that line of ice forming the line of rock going back up to these nice clean stand of trees and then the blue water blue sky in the background. But I didn't want all of that background on the far shore and I didn't want any of the clutter kind of from some of these taller trees into the top. Right. So I honed in on just a couple of little trees at the very edge of the rock. There are two things going on with this image. I like the basic idea. I like the basic frame. I do feel like that. The water has a bit too much texture and it's distracting me from what I want the viewer to see. And also it's a little tight on the left side. It's a lot tight actually, it's way too tight on the left side. So we got to see if we can open that up and give some breathing space. I pull back a little bit. I got a little bit higher now the trees really pop off the water. There's a little bit more space on the left side for that ice. You know that line of ice to go in and go back out of the rock. But we still have all that texture in the water and we are getting a little bit more the environment creeping in on the bottom left here. And we still have to deal with those trees on the top right. So at this point I pretty much just said, okay, maybe there's a better subject to isolate. So I went looking and I found a couple other trees, but I knew there was something there in the first image. So I abandoned my my little side mission and I went back to the standard trees. And what I did here is I tried to use some slightly longer shutter speeds to really kind of slow the exposure down and smooth out that water. And when I started doing that, it instantly popped for me. I realized, okay, if I can frame these trees against the blue water, take all the ripples out and then remove those trees in the top. Right, I might be onto something and that is essentially what I did. I played around with different shutter speeds. I put on a couple of different and the filters until I got the right combination that worked for me. And then I just stood there with the camera on the tripod, took a bunch of different shots, made sure focused with sharp and called it a day. I'm sure we're all used to that feeling of walking onto a scene or into a landscape and something draws our attention. And it's important to always recognize that feeling because there's something about every scene for every photographer that they're going to gravitate towards. And it's that subject than that anchor that you're gonna be able to build from and create a nice clean composition around. So for me in this example, it was the trees for you. It's gonna be something else. But that's what I'm talking about, what I'm saying, finding an anchor. And then once you've identified that anchor, it's really just as simple as putting the work in isolated and work that scene until it becomes as simple or minimal as you feel it should be or you want it to be. Mm. Yeah. Yeah.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 


  • Understand and apply the fundamentals of creating strong minimalist compositions.
  • Use negative space with intention. Establish mood, control balance in your frame, and elevate your subject from the visual clutter.
  • Avoid common traps that can lead to flat or boring minimalist images.
  • Explore how much information to keep and how much to take away from the image before it loses impact.
  • Understand common gear and technique choices that complement the minimalist style.


Do you ever wonder why certain photographs linger with the viewer long after they see them? Why sometimes the smallest point of interest makes the biggest impression? How so much “nothing” can feel so compelling in a scene? Minimalism photography techniques can add a powerful storytelling element to any genre, they can evoke emotion, and bring balance to your frame. Using Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic as his backdrop, this class will outline Curtis’s approach to creating stronger images with a minimalist mindset.

Learn to use the creative techniques of minimalism to intentionally account for every inch of your frame. Discover how to minimize clutter, work with negative space, and master visual balance to boost the overall impact of your compositions. Working in a clean visual style students will learn to look for strong anchors, shapes, and lines while eliminating visual distractions. Curtis will share his experiences and images from some of the world’s most remote destinations to help kick-start your journey toward simplified, cleaner photographs that capture the essence of our world.


  • Beginner and intermediate photographers interested in outdoor and landscape photography.
  • Photographers who want to understand and create with elements of minimalism to help capture the strength and essence of your subject.
  • Photographers looking to create cleaner, simplified images that leave an impact on the viewer.


Adobe Lightroom Classic (8.4.1)
Adobe Photoshop CC (20.0.8)

Ratings and Reviews

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This is a brilliant course which I can highly recommend. I have done some Minimalist photography but still found the lessons very interesting. I enjoyed the discussion on colour vs. B&W. My favourite part was to learn how long it takes to plan a shoot, wait for the right conditions, even change the subject if the initial idea doesn't work and see the other images taken during the shoot before (or after) the final image. The presentation is excellent - love the cat :-).

Bradley Wari

Great Job! Great course! loved the bloopers, had a few laughs. I really enjoyed how he showed a little of how he worked the scene of a few of his images. showing multiple images and how he got to THE shot.

Deb Williams

Great class, good length and easy to follow along. A fantastic way to challenge yourself to look at composition differently and a course full of useful tips to try out.