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The Practical Guide to Abstract Photography

The Practical Guide to Abstract Photography

Abstract photography is a commonly used term, but it’s very hard to define. According to Wikipedia, “Abstract photography is a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world and that has been created through the use of photographic equipment, processes or materials”.

Quite tough to understand? Well, in simple terms, abstract photography is the art of clicking pictures in such a way that the viewer couldn’t clearly understand what the subject is, immediately after looking at it. We use colors, shapes, textures, and forms to achieve this. Although it’s hard to define, it’s easy to capture. You can find a subject for abstract photography everywhere. You can try your hand at abstract nature photography, abstract landscape photography, and even abstract portrait photography.

Let's discuss some tips and techniques that can help you take better abstract photos. 

Change your perspective:

When you take a photograph from a different perspective, you get a different result. Let’s take an example of the Eiffel Tower. Everyone clicks its pictures from the side but if you go to the center of it, look straight up and take a picture, you’ll come up with a fantastic abstract picture.

Abstract Photography Eiffel Tower

Click abstract pictures of everyday objects:

If you look closely, you’ll find that you are surrounded by subjects for abstract photography. It could be the texture or details of your clothes, bedsheet, or furniture. You can click patterns on the wall. You just need to train your eyes to look beyond what’s in front of you.

Everyday Object - Abstract Photography 

Shoot macro:

One way to shoot abstract pictures is to get closer to the subject and shoot macro. You’ll be amazed to see the results. If you don’t have a macro lens, there are many ways to click macros using the lens you already have.


Macro - Abstract Photography


Capture motion with slow shutter speed:

You can shoot remarkable abstract pictures by moving your camera during the shoot. You need to use a slow shutter speed to do this. Usually, we shoot at 1/200 seconds or faster shutter speed but in this technique, we shoot at 1/10 or slower shutter speed to capture the motion. There are mainly three ways to create an abstract picture by showing motion in the picture.

motion - Abstract Photography

First, you can move your camera when the shutter is open. You should move it horizontally or vertically depending on your subject. The second way is called zoom burst. In this technique, zoom in or zoom out your lens after opening the shutter. The third way is to click the picture of a moving subject while your camera is still or click a still subject with a moving camera, like inside a moving car. Keep the shutter speed lower for best results.

Zoom Burst Abstract Photography

Shoot through glass:

Shoot everyday objects through a textured glass, and you’ll get stunning results. You could also spray some water on your car window and shoot through it to click interesting pictures.

Texture - Abstract Photography

Use camera gadget:

Use a camera gadget like MIOPS+ while shooting. This cool gadget gives you the ability to control your camera using your mobile phone.

Okay, let’s talk about some different types of abstract photography.

1. Abstract nature photography:

Most of us start our photography journey with nature photography and keep clicking nature pictures. If you train your eyes to find abstract subjects, you’ll come up with entirely different images from the location that you might have visited hundreds of times. If you are going to a beach, click a tight shot of waves with a slow shutter speed, and you’ll end up with a unique image. Find the patterns on the sand and click that, rocks and pebbles are also good subjects for abstract nature photography.

Abstract Nature  Abstract Photography

Visiting woods? Click the patterns on leaves, or take shots of dead flowers and leaves. Look out for colors and textures, and you’ll find many. You can even find geometric shapes in buildings in the city area. In nutshell, just observe, and you can find thousands of subjects out there.

abstract-architecture - Abstract Photography 

2. Abstract landscape photography:

Landscape photography comes under nature photography, the only difference is that in landscape photography we click wide-angle shots of land, water, and sky. There is a famous quote by “Melissa Brown” that says, “In every landscape should reside jewels of abstract are waiting to be discovered”.

 If you are visiting a flower farm, take a shot with a slow shutter speed on a windy day, and if it’s not windy, move your camera while clicking. If you are shooting in a forest area, click silhouette of trees, click patterns that tree trunks are making, look up and take a wide shot. Visiting a desert, click patterns on the sand in the morning or evening when the sun is very low. Actually, it’s not hard to find abstract subjects, it’s everywhere.

 If you have a Drone, you are lucky because you can take wonderful abstract pictures from the top.

Abstract Landscape - Abstract Photography 

3. Abstract portrait photography:

Combining portrait photography with abstract photography can produce spectacular results. Very few photographers do this experiment so, if you do this, your photography could be one step ahead of others. There are a few experiments you can do easily.

Set your camera on slow shutter speed and instruct your model to turn their face to the left and move slowly towards the right and hold for a moment in the center. Keep the background dark, and you’ll get mind-blowing pictures. The same technique can be done using the ‘multi’ mode of flash. In multi-mode, the flash fires multiple times during the shutter click. Let’s say you set the flash to fire 10 times with a frequency of 5Hz, it means the flash will fire 10 times in two seconds period. 

Light painting is another option, you can use laser lights or optical fiber lamps with slow shutter to click outstanding abstract portrait photos. Keep your photo slightly out of focus to get better results. You can also take close-ups of various body parts with low-key light. 

Take double-exposure pictures or combine two or more pictures using different blending modes in post-processing. In fact, you can do plenty of things in post-processing. Hundreds of Photoshop actions are available for that in the market.

abstract portrait - Abstract Photography

Now you know numerous ways to click abstract pictures. So, take a look at your surroundings, find at least three subjects and click pictures right now. All the best.

About the Author

Ramakant Sharda is an author, iOS App publisher, passionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.

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