Tag Archives: Form

Easy introduction to ‘visual elements’ in photographs

Look into your photograph, go deeper than it’s content.

Examine the composition of your image. Go beyond it’s immediate pictorial display. Look into the basic structure and you will be able to break your picture down into its component parts. Understanding individual “Visual Elements” in an image can help you to capture the eye of the viewer. It’s these elements that make the eye work to absorb the content of an image.

Visual elements shown in a slide show.

Image taken from the slide show below shows how the visual elements work.

What are the ‘Visual Elements’?

We make sense of the world by building a picture of it in our heads. We recognise objects in our environment because our eye/brain system is able to see and analyse the edges, contrasts, light/shadow/dark, colours and perspectives we see on and between them. Our ability to analyse these patterns gives us an understanding of the world we see.

To make an image, photographers look for strong visual elements through the lens. Then we strive to use them for the picture. A great deal of the creative work in photography is to remove content that doesn’t contribute to the point of an image. So we seek a point of view that isolates what we want to show.

Having isolated distractions the next job is to ‘see’ the subject in the ‘best possible light’. This English idiom is not just waffle (especially for photogs). It is really about using the edges, contrasts, light/shadow/dark, colours and perspectives mentioned above. Finding ways to use these effectively is what will draw the eye in our images.

The Elements of Art

My list of things we physically see is not detailed. It turns out that we can pin-point specific ‘visual elements’ in a photograph. Research in art has isolated these visual elements. They are called, by artists, “The Elements of Art”. There are seven of them…

  • Line (The path of a point, or implied path of a point, through space or over a surface.)
  • Shape (A two dimensional enclosure created by a single line – may be geometric or freeform.)
  • Form (A three dimensional object which has a ‘mass’ or ‘weight’; a shape with depth; physical width/height/depth.)
  • Space (Positive space: the subject or dominant object in the picture plane; Negative space: the background area. Space can occupy the outside, inside or surrounds in a depicted object.)
  • Value (The brightness/lightness/darkness/colour intensity.)
  • Colour (Light of particular wavelengths in the visible light spectrum.)
  • Texture (The presence of an apparent surface that would have a touch/feel character of its own.)
  • Examples – a slide show!

    Perhaps, some of my definitions above are difficult to understand. If you can put them into context it will help. Here is a short slide show by Kelly Parker. The examples really show the visual elements well. Click the bottom arrows to move back or forward on the slides.
     

    Download a Presentation Transcript of the slide show.

    Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

    Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

    Damon is a writer-photog 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 photographers.
    See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
    See also: Profile on Google+.

    Simple ways to create photographic abstracts

    Photographic abstracts

    • Photographic abstract •
    See the world a different way by looking for non-representational images to make.

    The key to photographic abstracts is observation

    The material for photographic abstracts is in the world all around us. With a little practice it is easy to see them. Your view will unfold with a through looking at the component parts of things.

    Abstracts can be almost anything. Most often they are the properties, attributes or component parts of something else. Where we see the whole of something – the abstract is found in the parts. Where we see a car, the abstract is found in the pattern of rust. Where we see a fence, the abstract is found in the texture of the wood. It may be found in the pattern of the fence too. The photographic abstracts shows the essence of something. It’s not always the whole of it. Or, it might be the whole of something, but a part of something else wider, larger, or more inclusive. In the reality of abstraction we are looking for something that is not necessarily the actual picture shown. Most often that means making an image that does not represent something. These non-representational images bring out form, shape, colour, hue, light, shadow – almost any attributes of the world of imagery. But, this is the point, the image tends not to be about what is represented, but what is the experience of the image itself.

    photographic abstracts bring out things that are found in patterns, colours, shape form, lines, angles. These and other things contribute to the essence of a thing. The inner beauty of something is often not in seeing the whole, but appreciating its parts. And, it is also about knowing that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Photographic abstracts show that extra view.

    Training your eye to see photographic abstracts in the world around you takes time. Once you start looking for non-representational imagery you will find them quickly and everywhere. Look out for the experience of what you see in the textures and forms, colours and hues – do not look to show a straight forward subject.

    Insight into photographic abstracts

    If all that sounds difficult then you need to give your eye some experience. Examine some of the abstracts available online. Here are some links to look at photographic abstracts…

    Simple ways to produce abstracts

    To get into making successful abstract images you need to make a simple start. The complexity of many images can easily confuse the eye. So to get started, open your eyes to the simple things you see.

    Take a bicycle. Complex in its whole, but photograph just the shadow from the back wheel on a sunny evening. A whole new world of angles, light and tone is revealed. The subject may be clear – it may not. The point I am making is, the interest lies in the result of the wheel creating a shadow. The power of the image is not in the bicycle itself, but the impact of its relationship between the sun and the actual structure. Check out these examples for some insight Bicycle wheel shadow images on Google | External link - opens new tab/page.

    The key word I just used is “relationship”. Often abstracts explore relationships. A non-representational image is about understanding the relationship of the parts to the whole. That, and expressing the feeling that it imparts to the viewer. The power of an abstract is to connect to the emotions of the viewer and provide something deeply appealing, but which examines the relationships of the parts. Producing an abstract is about finding ways to explore the relationships of the parts in ways that are not a plain, representation of the subject.

    So, try looking for ways to show the subject of your interest without showing the subject itself. Try some of these ways of looking…

    • Looking for a part shot of the whole.
    • Show it as a shadow.
    • Light it in a unique way.
    • Explore only parts of the subject.
    • Show the shape or form, but do not show the whole.
    • Look at the graduation of colour, shadow or light.
    • Go really close – just for a part.
    • Show the image in part through something else.
    • Show something that looks like something else.
    • Explore the texture of your subject.
    • Spotlighting just a part of your subject.
    • What is the relationship between tone and colour?
    • Show one thing in relation to another – an unusual pairing

    You can probably think of many more approaches to making an image. To get your creative juices flowing take a few days to review other peoples ideas about abstracts. Look through some of the example links I have given here.

    As you can see some of the ideas in the list above are starting to get more complex. Explore with simplicity first. Then later explore more complex mixtures of ideas about your subject.

    Trying to show the essence of something needs thinking about in new ways. Look at this list of the Elements of Art

    • Form
    • Line
    • Colour
    • Space
    • Texture
    • Light value (lightness/darkness)
    • Shape

    Each of these attributes of your subject can reveal new insights. Try exploring only one or two of these at a time. This will reduce the complexity of your approach. Your image will reveal a great deal about your subject but from a new, simple perspective. Describe your subject using the simplest possible elements of what you can see in it. Then you will have picked out a true abstract.

    Finding out more about photographic abstracts

    Abstracts fascinate photographers. The idea of expressing something without actually showing it in its complete form is really satisfying. Abstracts allow you to express yourself and say something new about your subject that no-one else has ever said. Abstract photography is one of the few ways you can really get a deep insight into your subject yourself, at the same time give a deep insight to your viewer. It gives you a license to express yourself more than almost all other aspects of photography.

    If you want to find out more about the subject there are few good books on the market. One of the real insights into this subject is The Edge of Vision: The Rise of Abstraction in Photography. It is a really interesting book, with historical insights and well positioned photographic insights too.

    I recommend this book to help you get a feel for the subject of photographic abstracts. As a photographer you will enjoy the pictures as well as the understanding you will gain by reading it. For me it helped an understanding of the context of photographic abstracts in popular art culture. But it also released me from it. In modern terms abstracts are an open subject. Today photographers have largely escaped the cultural context and are free to use the techniques without the strong cultural constraints of the past. So read the book and get into the ideas. Use it to expand your horizons.

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    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+.

    Seven examples of abstract photography

    Abstract photography taps into something deep in us.

    It reveals elements of a subject rather than the whole subject. Abstracts examine the mystery of a subject though the parts we normally ignore in favour of the whole. It is this that makes an abstract unique.

    In Definition: Abstract Photography we examined what makes an abstract. In the article Abstract Photography we examined abstracts in photographic terms and how to take abstract photographs. We looked carefully at the sort of properties or attributes of a subject to consider when taking abstract shots. In this post we are going to see some examples.

    How to look at an abstract

    The concept of an abstract is about the elemental make-up, the properties and attributes, of a subject. Often when we see something we tend to regard is as a whole. Abstracts explore the components that make the whole. We consider those in their own right rather than as their contribution to the whole. To appreciate an abstract try not to second-guess its part in the whole. Appreciate it for what it is – a thing which has its own properties, attributes and aesthetics.

    Seven examples of abstracts

     

    Light-Shadow

    Light-Shadow By ~LuceAnima

    On Deviant Art

     

    Golden Fins By Richard Homer

    Golden Fins By Richard Homer


     

    Abstract Photography

    Abstract Photography
    By d o l f i
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kelehen/5285763767/


     
     Abstract  No shape change.

    Abstract – No shape change. By Tanakawho


     
    Abstract-blue-sono2531a

    Abstract-blue-sono2531a – By Ara_gon
    On Flickr… http://www.flickr.com/photos/ara_gon/4035403/


     
    Abstract in black, blue and white

    Abstract in black, blue and white by Xollob58
    On Flickr… http://www.flickr.com/photos/xollob58/3049040298/


     
    abstract mini

    Abstract mini – By Ary Snyder
    On Flickr… http://www.flickr.com/photos/arysnyder/4178120542/

    Further exploration by links…

    Abstracts on Flickr…  External link - opens new tab/page
    Abstracts on Deviant Art External link - opens new tab/page
    Abstracts on 500px External link - opens new tab/page
    Abstracts on 365Project… External link - opens new tab/page

    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?

    “Abstraction forces you to reach the highest level of the basics.”

    Alan Soffer

    Abstract photography concentrates on the very simplest of components in a piece of art. Those are are known as the “Elements of Art”. They are…

    • Line;
    • Two dimensional shape (2d);
    • Three dimensional (3d) form;
    • Colour;
    • Space;
    • Tone, and
    • Texture.
    Extra dimensions in abstract photography

    Two extra dimensions are often found in abstract photography. One is the use of ‘movement’ – mostly through movement-blur. Perhaps, used more often is the use of focus, especially by controlling the depth of field. In addition, abstracts often incorporate “pattern”, which is a more complex structure from the “Principles of Art”.

    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. Abstract photography is all about simplicity. Getting down to the basics is often the best route to a good abstract.

    Using the “Elements of Art”

    The list above is perhaps difficult to think about in terms of actually creating an image. However, think carefully about what you see in the frame for your shot. Often you can see these simple elements in your subject. Try to simplify your shot so that you see only one, two, or at most three of those elements. If you manage to get the image to remain simple, you will make the shot more understandable. If you also manage, through that simplicity, to capture the readers eye, you will excite the viewer. Simple components, simple connections, simple insight to a subject – all these give you effective abstract material.

    Study the Elements of Art, at length. Try to see the simplicity within your frame. That is the key to developing your insight into abstraction.

    Other techniques…

    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.

    • 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+.