THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MASTER ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY

“There are no rules for good photographs. There are only good photographs”
Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams’ comments on a good photograph are not much different from other art forms for that matter. We know it for the fact that an artist’s creativity is at its best without restrictions. While speaking of Abstract Photography, in particular, rule number one to Abstract Photography is that there are no rules at all. 

Can you imagine the amount of freedom you are exposed to under this category? Freedom being the soul of any art form has been a popular belief amongst the artists since ever. The same formula applies to photography as well and can be summed up as the most basic, one-liner definition of Abstract Photography.

The word “abstract” in itself does not point to any tangible or materialistic thing or idea bound to a certain set of beliefs. It is more about the details rather than the external appearance of the subject/ object in question.

The best part about Abstract Photography is that it has never actually been categorized in a certain manner, meaning that the categorization has entirely been left open to interpretations. Let us have a look at the most basic points to consider while speaking of Abstract Photography.

DELVE INTO THE ESSENCE OF ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY

As mentioned above, there isn’t a typical definition of what Abstract Photography is or what all falls under the category. The only limitation of Abstract or non-objective photography is the limitation of the photographer’s imagination. At once, one particular scene or object could appeal to two different photographers in a distinct manner leading to a wide range of differences between their photographs. Indeed, it all depends upon the perspective of the photographer.

However, the art of creating abstract photographs isn’t as easy as it seems to one in the first place, for “abstract” also means isolating a thing from the most quintessential qualities of the subject/ object in particular as it focuses more on the details rather than outward appearances. For instance, rather than focusing more on the subject as a whole, an abstract photograph is more about giving a detailed picture of it, say, texture or color, or even a pattern in general.

What’s even more interesting is that sometimes, an abstract photographer might as well isolate the only part of a scene making sense to a person viewing the same thing from another angle and focus on something which might be invisible to others. Abstract art is also about letting go off the subject at times.

EXPLORING THE WORLD OF ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY

Owing to the absence of a set of rules or guidelines for Abstract Photography, this simultaneously happens to be one of the easiest and the most difficult fields of photography to try one’s hand at. Nonetheless, it can be very much appealing to beginners as well. The only thing to keep in mind while attempting at abstract photographs is to “Broaden your mind,” as Professor Trelawney used to say in Harry Potter

One has to remember to keep their head clear and try not to hold on to the appearances. So here we are, offering you a tour to the world of Abstract Photography while looking at its history and how this art form evolved with time along with a guide to experiment with different kinds of objects, perceptions, angles, and ideas to consider while getting into the abstractness of Abstract Photography.

THE HISTORY OF ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY

With its roots somewhere around the middle of the 19th century, the craft of Abstract Photography was born after J.W. Draper experimented with patterns that usually went unnoticed. One could easily accredit Draper for making people realize the absent presence of different kinds of patterns, designs, forms, textures, etc. in the most basic objects surrounding us and how he redefined the way we visualize our surroundings. 

Several other prominent figures responsible for the growth of this art form emerged by the end of the nineteenth century, but the art of Abstract Photography started blooming to its fullest with the emergence of different modernist movements in various fields of arts, particularly painting. 

The advent of movements such as Impressionism, Cubism, Post-Impressionism, which emphasized mostly on the finer details, unusual angles, perceptions, meanings, etc. fueled the interest of generations into abstract arts. And of course, with the advancement in technology, Abstract Photography flourished. 

To have a better understanding of the craft, you should check out the exceptional work of photographers such as Wolfgang Tillmans, Aaron Siskind, Jackie Ranken, etc. You can also have a look at the exceptional Instagram handles of photographers such as Justin Wirtalla, Brooke DiDonato, Victoria Siemer, Sebastian Weiss, etc.

“An emphasis on finer details of things around us.”- Tomas Malikpexels.com

KEY FACTORS TO KEEP IN MIND

Although the major factors in any field of photography mostly remain the same, the following aspects need to be dealt with more carefully while clicking abstract photographs as it’s all about details. Let us look at a few of the

LIGHTING

You must be wondering why the lighting factor needs to be emphasized at all since it’s in any way one of the most important factors upon which the quality of a good photograph depends. However, a proper lighting setup plays an even more crucial role in the case of abstract photography because it helps dramatize the details of the subject even further. In some cases, such as silhouettes, the mere absence of light beautifies the image to another level. Shadows also intensify the depth of an image sometimes.

“The play of lights and shadows in an abstract photograph.”-Adrian Olichon- pexels.com

ANGLE

Because abstract photographs are mostly about isolating and eliminating the context, the angle through which the photograph is captured needs to be perfect. The photographer needs to be very careful about what angle he/she is clicking the picture from. While common angles such as the Bird’s Eye allow a photographer to draw a bigger picture in front of the viewer, sometimes it’s best if a few things remain in the dark to make the picture exceptional and more abstract. 

Even though it is not like there’s a certain kind of prescribed or even a preferable angle of view for a picture to look more abstract, a photographer should always experiment with different angles.

“Angles that matter.”- Francesco Pagiaro- pexels.com

SIMPLICITY

For an abstract photograph to leave a lasting impact on the minds of its viewers, the picture needs to be as simple as it could be. By eliminating the complexity of the photograph, the picture could appeal more to the emotions of the intended audience. The cleaner and the simpler the image is, the easier it is for the viewer to grasp the depth of it and be able to appreciate the efforts put into it. It is much appreciated if the maximum number of distractions is subtracted from the frame.

“Simplicity and minimalism in an Abstract Photograph.”- Eric Ananda- pexels.com

COMMON ELEMENTS TO EXPERIMENT WITH WHILE GOING ABSTRACT

As of now, you must already be familiar with the most common points of interest amongst abstract photographers. A few of them are colors, textures, shapes, forms, lines, and curves. Sometimes, random objects in motion also become the focus of an abstract photograph. 

To sum it all, any kind of object, pattern, or even motion could qualify as a muse to an abstract photographer. Even a blurred photograph could be an abstract one if the photographer knows just what to add or subtract from the frame to make it impactful. Therefore, let go of the focus at times and explore.

TIPS TO EXCEL THE ART OF ABSTRACT PHOTOGRAPHY

As you already know that a rulebook to Abstract Photography does not exist. More than most of the time it’s best if creativity is left to be what it could be and one might just see the wonders liberation brings along with itself. However, with so much to explore and experiment with the photographer, sometimes might even get lost in space. 

So, we’ve curated several tips and tricks to help out our photographer friends to find their way and outshine themselves. 

LET YOUR ARTIST BLOSSOM

  • When “all the world’s a stage,” why not unleash the artist within? Let the entire universe be your muse and find inspiration in every single object around you. From the beautiful tiles of your wall to the droplets of water sticking around the edges of your glass, from those beautiful flower petals in your garden to the lamp in your room, look for inspiration in everything possible. After all, what’s the point in having no rules at all when you cannot be in your comfort zone and weave around extraordinary stories out of the most ordinary circumstances?

“Maybe this is what Shakespeare meant when he said, ‘All the world’s a stage.’”- Rohith Vishaal- pexels.com

  • Try a hand at the macro lens for more detailed pictures. While looking for inspiration in nature, a macro lens would be quite helpful as it makes even the minutest detail stand out. A macro lens gives an abstract photograph just the rightmost amount of sharpness. Go for bubbles, raindrops, or even the textures of rocks.


    “An abstract creation using a macro lens while experimenting with water droplets.”- Spenser Selover- pexels.com

PLAY ABSTRACT

  • Hunt for beauty in the most basic objects around you. Look for lines and curves, shapes, and designs, colors, and textures. Experiment with angles and distances. Zoom in and zoom out. Dim your source of light and sometimes even double the exposure. Play along with extra lights and even delve into shadows. Manipulate every element to the best of your interest, just leave no stone unturned. Look for frames within frames to add layers to your narrative.

     

“Look for inspiration in your surroundings.”- Shon Ejai- pexels.com

 

COLOR PALETTE

  • Subtract anything and everything from your frame that might distract the attention of your audience from your intended focal point. After all, “less is more” sometimes. Look for visual unity and harmony in what you click. The simpler and the more unified your frame is, the easier it gets for the viewer to concentrate on what you mean to represent.

Not that the choice of colors should be limited to solids alone or that the patterns should all be the same, but the image needs to be as unified and harmonious in its tone so that the viewer does not feel disturbed or lose interest in the subject altogether. It shouldn’t be the case that the choice of colors or patterns or textures in a frame create chaos instead of complementing each other. Go for a balance between all the shades. If needed,  Go black and white, right?

“Unity and harmony in tones explained most aptly in a photograph.”- Magda Ehlers- pexels.com

 

MOTION BLUR

  • Expand your boundaries from the still life to capturing life as it is: always in motion. Learn to sometimes defocus and let that blurred subject of your photograph remain unfocused. Do not forget to experiment with a slower shutter speed to capture that beautiful blur. That’s the beauty of a picture in motion, quite similar to life. One cannot expect to capture every aspect of it. Let the moving, unfocussed subject of your photograph trigger the emotions of your viewer. Leave something to their imagination, to the mystery, and let them appreciate the complexity of the given situation.


“Capturing motion.”- Ruiyang Zhang- pixels.com

The bottom line would be that although the lack of rules and guidelines lends one a free hand, the photographer must not forget to rigorously explore and experiment and figure out what suits him/ her the best. Remember that since every abstract photograph is unique in itself, not even your own sets of findings and inferences after experimenting with various elements would always stand true or prove to be helpful under all circumstances. 

Not always would a closer look into that subject of yours be the best thing for your picture. Not always would the natural light add the rightmost amount of abstractness to it. Keep in mind what Ansel Adams meant when he said, “You do not take a photograph, you make it,” and do not forget to make whatever adjustments you see fit to your cause and post-process your photograph in order to turn it into that masterpiece it’s meant to be. Add layers to the story you wish to tell the world. After all, it’s your story, right?

CONCLUSION

One can surely attribute this much to the concept of Abstract Photography that it really has revolutionized the field of photography as a whole, giving one reason enough to pursue, celebrate, and cherish the art form. Abstract photography adds a deeper meaning to what capturing a moment in a photograph means. 

One can take as much of a lesson from the fundamental concept behind abstract photographs and attempt to look at life differently with a different perspective from a different angle and be surprised at what it has in store for you. Sometimes it’s best if we lose focus or let go of that hunt for a subject and appreciate what’s there. Just do not forget to play with the lights, shadows, and colors and appreciate the forms, textures, and patterns it lays out for you.

We hope you found this guide to break the code and master the art of Abstract Photography helpful. For more such amazing blogs on different tips and tricks related to different fields of photography, visit our blog at blog.chiiz.com and keep yourself posted about our upcoming contests as well. Learn more about our multipurpose digital platform at Chiiz and do not forget to have a look at the magazines we publish monthly at magazine.chiiz.com.

About the Author:


Meenal is a Literature graduate pursuing her Masters from Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is a budding photographer willing to tell her tale using the power of words and visuals. Meenal is an ardent listener, a keen reader and an admirer of music.

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