Abstract photography – what it is and how to do it

Abstract photography - great pictures and lots of fun!

'Red' - In the style of Rothko
Abstract photography can produce great pictures and be lots of fun!
Concentrate on colour, form, shape and focus for best effect.
Click to view large.

What is Abstract Photography?

Abstract photography concentrates on the two dimensional shape (2d), three dimensional (3d) form, colour, pattern and texture. This is in line with abstracts in other media. Two extra dimensions are found in abstract photography. One is the use of movement through movement-blur. Used more often is the use of focus, especially by controlling the depth of field.

Photo abstracts take the viewer away from knowing or recognizing the subject. Instead they invite the viewer to almost ‘feel’ the textures, forms and other elements of the subject. Often abstract photography makes the object unrecognisable as an object in its own right. Instead it directs attention to the look and feel – the essence of the object.

For a more detailed definition of Abstract Photography check this page in our Glossary…
Abstract Photography – a Definition

How to Shoot Abstracts

Abstracts are about our creativity and not about the object. The simple shot above, with its rich emotional orange, is a glass of water coloured with red dye and slightly backlit with a desk lamp. Many abstracts are created using the simplest things – often they are found around the home.

To help you shoot a few abstracts I have put a list of things you can try below. Try one, or a few at a time. Compare them to some of the examples in the links below the list. Reduce or remove clutter. Keep your shot as simple as possible. Have fun.

  • Look for patterns – especially very close up.
  • Textures – show the ‘feel’ of surfaces and faces of an object.
  • Try unusual or unique angles.
  • Use a macro lens, macro tubes, or get really close.
  • Crop very tight to an interesting/unrecognisable part.
  • Concentrate on multiple colour variations without showing the whole object.
  • Concentrate on tonal variation – minimise colours.
  • Use long, low light exposure to bring out subtle shadow variations.
  • Use soft or hard light variations on close-ups.
  • Emphasis the ‘shape’ (2d) of an object – keep it from being recognised.
  • Exaggerate the ‘form’ (3d) of something – keep it from being recognised.
  • Concentrate on curves and rounded shapes or forms.
  • Concentrate on angular and geometric shapes or forms.

Many of these can be applied to everyday objects or common items. Once you become aware of the shapes, forms, patterns and textures in the things around you a new world opens up. So try to take one of the above and spend a few days looking at everything around you for ways to see that item. Then move on to others. Before long you will be an abstract photographer!

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.