Photographing Things that Look Like Something Else

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

What is that? How many times have you seen a photograph and wondered what it actually was? Abstract photography is the same concept. A photographer creates an art work by recording details of a subject but in a way that it doesn't necessarily reveal the identity of the subject. This technique is excellent for not only capturing an audience's attention but it also keeps them enthralled for some time while they try to decipher it.

Based on these abstract photography principles another fun project which is quite similar to abstract art is to record images of basically any subject in a way that it reveals some details that with close inspection will eventually reveal the source; a "what is it" moment followed by a "so that's what it is."

Unlike abstract which cannot be identified all of the time, this theme will allow one to identify the subject but after spending some "quality" time inspecting the photograph.

Any subject will do, but aim to record subjects which have many details present or are very lacking in them; the two extremes. You will conduct this theme much better by using a lens that allows you to get in close, not necessarily a macro, although macros are great, but just close enough to reveal just enough and not too much all at once.

Animals are fun to include in this theme since many of their images are unrecognizable unless one carefully studies the sample. Many animals have similar skins, hair types and other features, use them to your advantage. Focus on areas where appendages meet and on facial features such as lips, eyes, noses, ears, limbs and so on.

Flowers are also good. Focus on the interior parts such as the pistils and stems. Macros shots work better with flowers than for many of the other subjects. The trick will be to record enough detail to make an audience guess as what type of flower it is that they are looking at.

Household items work amazingly well too. Focus on everyday items but here again, since most of us are very familiar with many of these subjects a macro will work better.

Three variations make these images hard to identify and gives the photographer various options: the angle used to record the image, how unusual a subject is or extreme close ups; macros.

It is also a good idea to do two projects; one where the photographs are in a mode that does not facilitate their identification. The other of the subject in a way that it becomes clearly recognizable. One can have lots of fun with the theme and it is very adaptable for educational purposes, for general photographic publications as well as for mediums such as the one you are reading at the moment.

The human body lends itself very well towards this technique. Focus on areas of the body in an extreme close up. Your audience will probably readily identify the images as that of a person, the key will be to identify what part of the body it is that they are looking at. Don't be shy here, photograph whatever part appeals to you as a good subject with this project in mind, but be mindful if you also intent to reveal the entire subject later.

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) Looks like small creatures at the base of the tree
Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) Looks like small creatures at the base of the tree | Source

You can use color in pursuing the topic or in a monochromatic medium so long as your images are representative of a part of a subject which is intriguing and makes an audience wonder.

Apply theses images towards compositions which allow or encourage some text to be added to the photographs, usually offering a hint as to what they are. The answer can then be offered by showing the entire subject in a way which allows for recognition but it should be done in a format that prevents a person from seeing them right away.

Books and magazines are great for this because one set of photographs are in one page with the others being in another.

Scavenger hunts are predictably great and lend themselves very well here. Present an unrecognizable subject's photo to the participants and have them seek out an image of the actual subject. Do offer some subtle hints. It the hunt is to hard participants will become frustrated and give up.

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Comments 15 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

This is a fun sort of photography and can achieve great effects.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Peggy W; Thank you


Cardisa profile image

Cardisa 5 years ago from Jamaica

This a quite unique technique. Makes you really ponder. I like this one, there is a kind of mystery associated with it.


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Cardisa: and the mystery is the essence of the theme, glad you noticed


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Some of these I could figure out, but others I have not actually seen up close before to be able to identify the altered angle of photography-the guinea pigs nose, crocodile skin, and ocean float.


anusha15 profile image

anusha15 5 years ago from Delhi, India

A really interesting topic and very well written too. I'm glad came across your hub, I follow Photography, I took a look at other hubs by you and found them interesting too. I'll definitely come back for more interesting reads.

I didn't know it's called Abstract Photography, but I've always liked the concept. As you mentioned - household items, specially things in your kitchen could be great subjects. I tried with a burnt utensil once, and the picture was, well, really abstract :)


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

anusha15: Thank you


Lynn S. Murphy 5 years ago

Very cool. I love the different angles and perspectives. One more for my ever growing list!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Lynn: OK Lynn I hope that you get started on your list soon..I would love to see some of your images.


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

This reminded me of that old SNL skit Steve Martin used to do. "What the hell is that", What the heeelll is that, Whaaat the hell is thaaaat! Good hub Luis!! Peace!! Tom


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

justom: Thanks Tom, nice to have you back


psychicdog.net profile image

psychicdog.net 5 years ago

Fun alright! LOL you've got it down Luis!


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

psychicdog: Thank you


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Besides amazing photos these pictures are great exercises for the brain :))


LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida Author

Sunshine625: Thank you

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