Skip to main content

photo & video

Minimalist Photography

Lesson 14 of 27

Post-Processing - When I Use it and Why?

Curtis Jones

Minimalist Photography

Curtis Jones

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2000+ more >

Lesson Info

14. Post-Processing - When I Use it and Why?
Using Lightroom and Photoshop Curtis will walk through several examples where editing can elevate what you’ve created in the field and enhance the simplification of your images.

Lesson Info

Post-Processing - When I Use it and Why?

Let's talk a little bit about post processing. We won't get it right every single time in the field. Even if we are using all of our minimalist techniques for those times, we can take those images home, pop them in the light room Photoshop and give them just a little bit extra attention. Normally my edits are quite light. I don't do a lot of Photoshop work. Not every image needs it, but I'm also not against it. If a photo does require extra editing and I'm able to do those edits, I will just do what feels right for you. So we're not gonna go too crazy with this lesson. Just gonna go over the crop tool a little bit. Maybe the clone stamp and the content aware fill to help clean up some of those distractions. Then we'll cover extending that canvas to help give your images if they needed a little extra breathing space. And then we'll finish up with a little black and white conversion where I pop some contrast and work with the crop tool to help balance out the image a little bit better ju...

mp right in and go over. Probably the tool I use most often and that's the crop tool in light room and I'll use this crop tool for all the work that I do, not just the minimalist work. I do like to shoot a bit more loose in the field so I have the ability to crop in when I get home and put it up on a larger display just in case there's something that you missed while you were out there. And for minimalist work. Oftentimes you won't always get every single distraction, especially around the edges. It's nice to be able to have the ability to crop in at least a little bit. What we've got here are two examples taken on a whale watching tour on the east coast of Newfoundland. One is a pretty extreme crop and one is not as extremist, still a little bit aggressive, but not quite as crazy. This first one's a pretty typical scene and you're out there bobbing around, your head is kind of on a swivel and the whales are doing whatever they, you know, whales are gonna do. You're trying to keep a respectful distance, obviously a safe distance and you don't always know where the action is going to happen and that's what, what's going on here. I've got a couple of whales coming out of the water. They're blowing some nice backlit missed and this little puffin guy kind of just went right into the frame here of one whales blow And I really, really love that part of the image. So I'm going to use an extreme crop. Gonna just take any by 10 aspect ratio. Bring it in really nice and tight here and isolate just the single part of the image. And I'm gonna use the rule of thirds grid on the crop tool here to kind of balance out the humpback whale, the puffin and then this beautiful curl coming off the top of the blow, go ahead and acknowledge that. And here's our final crop, which I feel is much tighter, much stronger, much more clean. Obviously it's pretty aggressive and you don't want that to be your standard. Um but sometimes it's necessary and it's nice to be able to do what we can. Here's the second example from whale watching and this time just puffins in the fog at this one solitary puffing down here, that's really taking all of the spotlight for me, I have a little bit going on here with his friends and then falling off to these like sort of out of focus friends in the background which is a bit distracting. I can take care of those guys pretty quickly and easily with this clone tool in light room or you can open it up in Photoshop if you want to do like a really good job. But this guy over here, I'm gonna crop him out and this time instead of going with just the standard horizontal crop, I'm gonna unlock the tool center are puffin in the bottom, lower third here and turn it into a vertical crop. Mm Not quite a little more balanced. I'm gonna bring them Right to the edge of that bottom 3rd line. That feels a little bit better. And then like I said, I would probably go here again and either use light rooms clone tool or Photoshop. There were those little distractions and this image isn't finished but this is like a starting point. So this is a clean canvas. Now for me to work my clean minimalist image two or three little edits and I've got it in the right ballpark and here's the final version of that image after some color correction and contrast adjustments. Here's a fun assignment for you guys. If you're interested in playing with the crop tool, I want you to go back through some of the photos that you've already taken, try to find a couple of shots that you think might have some minimalist potential and then take your crop tool and try some extreme crops in there and look for the minimalist images within the larger scene. You don't necessarily have to find something you can print and and turn into or call a minimalist image, but it is gonna help train your eye to help see these scenes much more clearly as an example. I've pulled up this image of the sand dunes in Mongolia and it's a really nice black and white conversion. I believe it's really strong as is. But if I take the crop tool and just bring it way down and try a couple really extreme crops, you're gonna see that there are a couple other nice minimal compositions within this one composition. So here's the first one. I really like this really soft, subtle line of light, this sort of s coming in. Mm And yeah, you know, maybe even that, that's even stronger. I think. So that's, that's nice. I like how this strong diagonal line is coming down up here. I might try to go with a lot of sky on this. Also pretty tight, pretty clean. So that's just to within this one image. And if I keep hovering around like this and looking, I'll probably find one or two more. So, grab your laptop, fire up light room and go look for some photos that you've already taken, throw the crop tool on there and find some minimalist images. Next, we're gonna go over something I run into from time to time when I need a little extra breathing space in a shot. So this is an example of instead of cropping in, we're going to extend the canvas out, we're kind of cropping out for lack of a better word, I need a little more space in the image somewhere, some element of the subject a little too tight or maybe the balance is off. Mhm. I've got this example from a snow kiting shot that I took up, my friend Erik Boomer up on baffin Island, he's basically jumping over a snow machine. My friend Willie is riding on the snow machine. There's a whole lesson on this later in the class where I create this image and a couple other ones that you guys should check out. But in this case his kite is a little too close to the top of the frame and that's the result of just not being able to control exactly where he was going to be in my space. You know, you only have a little bit of room for the snow machine on the bottom of the kite and the skier. All I could do in this situation was frame it up and hope that nothing important was going out of the shop. I knew that if I had a little bit of space there I could extend the canvas. So I'm gonna duplicate that layer. Then I'm going to grow the canvas out from the bottom. Gonna work in inches. Gonna say I want a height of about four extra inches. So anchor down here on the bottom. Let Photoshop do its magic. Mm And then I'm gonna grab our marquee tool over here and I'm going to select the area that I want to fill. I'm gonna say content aware fill and Photoshop is going to figure out what needs what information to draw on to fill in that space. That's this green area here. I've just got it on auto the auto setting for more complicated scenes. You might have to go in and like create something a little more custom but there's nothing complicated about the space that needs to be filled. So I'm gonna say okay let Photoshop do its job de select and here you can see this is without this is with it. Buy zoom in should be pretty clean. No lines, no telling signs that I've went in and messed about a little bit to give it that extra space. And I'll just go back to the very beginning here. You can see that this is the shot before we extended it versus a shot afterwards and it's much more nicely balanced. There's definitely more space for this kite room for eric and the kite to breathe a little more the whole image now it just feels like the weight makes more sense. Sometimes you're gonna need to do a little more heavy lifting in Photoshop. You're gonna want to use the clone stamp or content aware or healing brush or something of that nature to get rid of distractions that you just couldn't shoot past or reframe in the field. And I've got this photo here of a red boat on the beach in apex in nunavut, just outside of a Halloween. You can see overall that. This image is pretty clean the sky. It's pretty clean. There's not a lot of distraction in the ice here. Pretty nice snow in the foreground. But we do have a couple of distractions that I couldn't quite handle in the field or frame past the security camera on the back. We've got a little sticker down here. You've got some troublesome beach exposed over here. We've got a little bit of boardwalk or beach exposed again. So there's not a lot but there is enough that I would bring this photo into Photoshop if I thought it had potential and clean it up with the clone stamp tool. And that's what we're gonna try to do here right now. So the first thing I'm gonna want to do is get in really nice and close, have a better look at what I'm dealing with. You can see this section. So I grabbed the clone stamp. Yeah not too hard, not too soft. Just select the area here, little bit from the top. Yeah. Nothing too complicated. Yeah nothing too precise again. Yeah. Same thing down here. The only thing I'm really doing is making sure I'm grabbing from areas with the same exposure values and such that it doesn't look like I'm repeating a pattern over and over and over again. So just be mindful of where you're grabbing it, you can see the little crosshatch or the cross that's where it's selecting from areas of straight lines. You want to make sure you're selecting from a part of the building with a straight line. That's much easier. Make sure you stay on path again this trial and error. So if you're not super comfortable with the clone stamp tool, I suggest going in just make a duplicate layer or a new layer in Photoshop. So it's non destructive and have some fun. So I would do the same thing with this patch down here and the security camera and this is what the final image would look like. I think in the final final image I applied to crop as well just to get a little bit of that building out of there and we're left with something a little more like this. The final thing I'm going to touch on for the post processing part is just a simple black and white conversion. The light room and I wanted to finish up with this because this is quite often the most common thing that I'll do to my minimalist images, especially ones that I know I'd prefer to have in black and white. It's just some contrast, some sharpening and maybe a little bit of crop tool play. This photograph I took with my Maverick air. I was out dog sledding with my friend Torsten and it was a beautiful sunset night. We have wonderful patterns and shadow and lines. If you want to see how that image was created and see some fun drone footage of the north and those happy dogs dog sledding, Check it out in a later lesson. But for now we're gonna try and see if we can take this color image from the Maverick air and kind of give it that classic black and white clean processing feel other than the fact that I really wanted this image to be black and white. Another reason why I'm doing this conversion is because I had a filter on the lens of the maddock and there was some weird coloration or discoloration happening I think because of the direction of the light, the angle, the lens and stuff like that. But you can see there's like a sort of a slightly weird bluish tint and you have this magenta and then blew back down here isn't necessarily bad, but it's not what I wanted. So first thing I'm gonna do is just hit V which is the shortcut in light room to convert over to black and white space. And I'm going to keep an eye on the history graham up here. Maybe pull up the exposure some just to get back in that realm of nice and clean when your image is this bright, like a lot of snow and very little shadow. Your camera set to auto is going to under expose most of the time. So if you can't control that setting and camera, you're gonna have to bring the exposure up a stop or stop and a half. Sometimes in light room. Then I'm gonna throw a little contrast in here. But mostly I'm gonna play with the white, the black balance, uh some clarity and then uh an adjustment curve down here to really give it that classic black and white look. Mm holding down on the altar option key sliding the white all the way to the right until you start to see a clip into your space. Same thing for the black. I'm gonna slide it down and I really do want sort of that higher dynamic look here. So I don't mind that it's little more pushed even if I'm clipping a little to be honest. Same thing with the lights on the curve, the darks down a little bit. Let me pump some clarity and texture in there, backslash key to see the before after. I think we can go a little bit more aggressive on the darks. I'm just gonna let those bleed into the scene. I know I'm clipping but I don't mind wait as well again, there's no rhyme or reason, there's no right or wrong way to make these adjustments in Photoshop or light room. Everybody has a different way of doing it. For me, it's more about play and just feel and vibe. You know, I do I do tend to do the same sequence over and over but it does vary shot to shot and I certainly don't have like much in the way of press play preset done. Then the next thing I'm gonna do is grab the sharpening tool down here. Can I see if I can sharpen this thing up, pop the radius up a little bit and then hold the altar option key down, slide your masking over. This is light rooms way of masking out the areas that you don't want the sharpness applied to. So when a shot like this, I'm really hoping to increase the sharpness on the dogs and Torsten in the sled and the texture in the in the ice and the snow. But anywhere where it's a little less textured, I don't necessarily want extra texture going in there so you can see from the masking that that sharpness is only getting applied to the white and the black is where it's not being applied. And then the final thing that I'd probably do with this shot as I play with the crop tool a little bit. I didn't get the perfect direction or angle that I wanted with the dogs. I wanted them to be like perfectly in line with the top of the frame going straight out of the frame. Mm hmm. But the drone, you're flying a drone in the arctic with the dog team, you get what you get sometimes. So we use the crop tool and just see if I can bring those guys a little bit more in line with the direction of travel that I was hoping to gab maybe something like that. Going to use the top of the crop tool here as my center point to line up with sort of the lead dog and back to the sled. Unfortunately Torsten is off access a little bit here, he's going back into the left little but I'm more inclined to concentrate on getting these dogs in a nice flight path. Then the sled itself and making sure they're centered. Mhm. Yeah. And then I'll just nudge this around a little bit, play with the weight a little more, make sure it's nice and balanced and here's my final image. I'll use shift tab l to kind of open up the lightbox, get rid of all that distraction. So you're not looking at the light room interface anymore, you really get a better idea of what your image looks like. So this is pretty good. I like this going to leave it as such and I think that might be it. Sometimes I I do get a little more aggressive with the whites in these situations. I don't know why, but I really like that classic white, really white and the dark is really, really dark for these stark arctic scenes, but that's far enough, I think that's good enough. Here's the before, one last time and here's the after and that's just a really quick and simple black and white conversion that I'll often do not much to it quick and easy. You know, you're going out, you're finding the right subject, you're finding the right weather and conditions, you're, you're using all these minimalist techniques. You're gonna have a lot of the work done for you in the field. So when you get back and you open this thing up to edit, it shouldn't really take you that long. Most of the time. I hope this helps make sure you play around with the crop tool, play with that assignment I gave you guys and share your images. I want to see them.

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

Student Work

Related Classes



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.