5 Tips To Help You Get Started With Abstract Photography

By Jason D. Little / December 2, 2018

Are you looking for something new to photograph? Every photographer gets to a point where they want to do something different, something to challenge their creativity. One creative photography undertaking you might want to consider is abstract photography.

There’s nothing particularly difficult about abstract photography — it doesn’t require any special gear and it can be done absolutely anywhere. But it does require you to rethink your approach to how you would normally photograph any given subject.

If you’re interested in abstract photography, here are 5 tips to get you started.

Zoom In On The World

Anything can be a subject for abstract photography because abstract photography is less concerned about who or what the subject is and is more focused on nuanced aesthetic qualities of the subject.

Focusing in on the smaller details of a subject both isolates its and simplifies it. This process allows you to be very specific about what you are trying to communicate — no extraneous details exist to get in the way of your message. You are highlighting the essence of a subject.

This focus on detail is one reason that macro photography works so well in the abstract realm.

Johannes Plenio at Pexels

Less Context, More Mystery

Another side effect of zooming in on a subject is that it strips away context. This can also be accomplished with clever framing and composition. Without the presence of visual clues, a viewer can’t know exactly what they are looking at.

A well-executed abstract photo acts as the ultimate mystery, compelling the viewer to think and ask questions about what they are seeing, perhaps never knowing the answer but remaining intrigued.

Scott Webb at Pexels

Form Over Things

Rather than looking for specific subjects (flowers, faces, buildings), look for characteristics that might accentuate a subject — highlights and shadows, shapes and colors, lines and textures — and focus only on those qualities.

Use form as the primary point of visual interest and make the subject secondary. Even if the subject is identifiable, it won’t detract from an astute use of composition and framing to arrange all those somewhat elusive traits.

Pixabay at Pexels

Creative Post Processing

If you’re someone who insists on maintaining the “realness” of your subjects when doing post-production, abstract photography can be an occasion when you stray from your own rules a bit.

Unconventional crop or aspect ratio, extra saturation, obvious contrast boost, imaginative color manipulation, fanciful dodging and burning. Of course, you still don’t want to overdo it, but abstract photography lends itself to the use of post-production techniques that you wouldn’t use in any other scenario.

Pixabay at Pexels

Experiment

If ever there was a time to experiment, it is when you’re doing abstract photography. Other types of photography come with at least a few rules attached that people are expected to adhere to — shoot at f/2.8, focus on the eyes, use a fast shutter speed.

Sure, the rules exist for a reason. But when you’re doing abstract photography you can break the rules (which you should also feel free to in other genres) and make up your own as you go.

Obviously, the very nature of this type of photography leaves it wide open to interpretation and criticism — I suppose there may be a fine line between what’s art and what’s a mess in a frame, but I’m not here to judge.

rawpixel.com at Pexels

Final Thoughts

Maybe it’s easier to think of abstract photography as an umbrella term — landscape photography, macro photography, long exposure photography, even street photography and portraiture can all be made abstract. You can use a wide angle lens, a telephoto lens or a macro lens.

At its core, abstract photography is no different than other forms of photography in the sense that it’s about expressing emotions and ideas. But the fact that it doesn’t rely on realism as do other types of photography means the possibilities are endless.

Further Reading


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About the author

Jason D. Little

Jason Little is a photographer (shooting macros, portraits, candids, and the occasional landscape), writer, and music lover. You can see Jason’s photography on Flickr, his Website or his Blog.

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