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Creating Abstract Photographs

Abstract photograph of multicolored lichen on rocks at Cape Point in South Africa.

Creating a compelling abstract photograph is a lot easier than you think, at least that is what I tell myself.

In many situations, photography can be very straight forward. You are focussing either on the beautiful vistas, clouds, portraits, animals; you name it the subject of the image is very clear to you and the audience.

By saying this I’m in no way indicating that abstract photography is not planned or created purposefully by a photographer. In fact, in many ways, there is a lot more intent that goes into making that photograph.
I am searching for abstract ways of expressing reality, abstract forms that will enlighten my own mystery. ~ Eric Cantona

How to Shoot Abstract Photographs?

There are plenty of articles that try to lay this out in a straightforward answer. One of the better articles on the DPS blog outlines a number of techniques that can be applied used to create the abstract photographs.

However, I would prefer to say there are absolutely no clear rules on how to shoot abstract photographs. Personally, this is one of the most appealing things about abstract in that it doesn’t matter whether you are an expert with the camera or in post production.

More so the aim of an abstract photograph is to elicit a “What is it and how do I feel about it?” response from an audience. By removing the “in your face here is what this photo is about” you are effectively removing the sign posts and asking people to feel your picture instead.

The best advice I can give anyone wanting to learn how to start shooting abstracts is to throw away the notion that the subject matter is important. Instead, you should look at the scene in a “new light”. Focus on the composition and the feeling of the image and let the subject matter be secondary.

The second piece of advice I can give on how to shoot abstract photographs is to find inspiration from others. There are so many areas that you can draw inspiration from that sooner or later you will begin to see the abstract.

Inspiration From Painting

A number of years ago as Google+ was gaining momentum, I was pointed in the direction of the following video by one of the people in my circles.

 Art Wolfe is a well-known nature photographer. His work is simply outstanding and incredibly inspirational. For someone who is so well known for nature photography, I was pleasantly surprised to hear his take on using painting as inspiration.
I shoot without prejudice. And, it just opens up the world. I never run out of ideas. ~ Art Wolfe 
What was so incredibly enlightening about this video was the very easy way in which Art talks about finding photos. He’s able to see the work of impressionist, pointillism, abstract expressionist painters while in the field. This ability to recall his own inspriations allows him to to bring back photos that he enjoys.

This video opened up a lot of possibilities for me and if you have the time I would recommend you watch it.

Open your eyes and your heart and begin to search for that image that gives you the joy and mystery of abstract photographs.

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  1. […] was an American modernist painter who is particularly well known for her paintings of flowers. In last week’s post, the video I linked to had Art Wolfe describing how glaciers in Antartica reminded him of these […]

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