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What is Abstract Photography Art?

Updated on July 24, 2016

What Exactly Is Abstract Photography?

Basically you know you're looking at abstract photography when you look at a photo and say to yourself "What the heck is that?" To be fair that is a blunt statement and only applies to the most abstract pieces of photography, those that bare no resemblance to objects in the physical world.

Many such pieces have undergone extensive post-processing work in photo-editing software. I am certainly not knocking this form of abstract digital photography as it can be quite astounding when done properly.

However, when starting out in abstract photography why not keep it simple as you develop your skills. Abstract art is everywhere, the key is learning how to "see" it and then to capture it in a compelling way.

Good Examples of Simple Abstract Photos

Abstract Photography - The Eyes Have it!

Any photographer worth his salt should have an awareness of all the different forms of photography, this not only makes him more well rounded, but most importantly develops his "eye".

What is your "eye"?

Your "eye" is your ability to see things in a different way than the average person. Once you develop your eye, you will then develop your own unique style of photography. Your style will separate you from the scores of digital photography artists out there. If you can properly promote your style of art, (and it is good enough) there will be an audience for it.

How to Capture Abstract Photography Shots

To start out, I suggest you learn to play with your camera. Yes, I did say play. You may or may not remember before the age of ten years old how you looked at everything as if it were something you had never seen before (and you probably hadn't). If you have a kid who is under the age of ten, (3 - 4 years old is ideal), closely observe how they react to new things that they discover.

See that look in their eye? Remember that look or feeling? Well, that's the one you want to get back. The sense of wonder and newness of childhood is what you want to recapture.

Look for patterns of light and color. Seek out lines and angles repeating themselves or in stark contrast to each other. Walk around your house and look at things you haven't really looked at for years.

Notice the differences and the extraordinary. The pattern of the wood grain on that old chair might make a good shot, or the way the light comes in through the curtains and creates a contrasting shadow on textured carpet. You don't need to go anywhere special. Unlike some other forms of digital photography, this type of photography is all around you. This type of photography can be a very personal or intimate, if you will.

Basic Equipment is Great!

One of the great things about abstract photography is this: Whatever equipment you have or don't have, will not stop you from taking some great abstract photography shots. If you have a dedicated macro lens for getting those tiny details, or a multi-functional lens (that ranges from macro to telephoto/zoom) then so much the better.

The most important pieces of equipment you need in this case are your eyes, a camera, and your imagination.

Got all three? Great, let's go...

Abstract Photography Tutorial Exercises

1. Without your camera, I want you to take a walk around your house. Look at everything as if you've never seen it before in your life. You may find this a bit difficult at first, as your mind will probably say "I'm pretty sure I've already seen that before, do you mind if we look at something else?" Ignore your mind, it doesn't know what it's talking about in this case.

2. Take a look at a chair or a cushion. Notice anything interesting? No? Well, change your angle... lie down on the floor and look up at the chair, or where possible look directly under the chair. Try this with many different objects.

3. OK, now as long as your family members haven't carted you off in a straight-jacket, now do the same thing...this time looking at those things through your camera.

Change the focal length where possible, and keep shifting your angles. Take a few shots and see how they look. Good? Bad? Either is OK, as you are developing a feedback-loop, and perfection doesn't come in five minutes.

4. Experiment with aperture. If you have a digital SLR put it on semi-automatic AV, for aperture priority. A large aperture (e.g. f.2.8/f.1.4) allowing in more light will create less depth of field (things further away from the focal point will be out of focus), whereas a smaller aperture (e.g. f.16/f.22) will allow in less light and create more depth of field (most things will be in focus surrounding the focal point).

Note: It would be well for you to experiment with depth of field (D.O.P) sooner rather than later if you're not familiar with it, as you are definitely going to need it at some point.

Results & Further Abstract Photography Training

You may or may not have gotten a shot you think is good. Please don't discard the bad ones just yet. Get a friend or partner to view your new pics on a slide show on your computer. You may very well be surprised at which ones are their favorites.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say. To be honest, in any form of abstract art this is often the case and, make no mistake about it, abstract photography is an art form.

A Final Recap:

Spend a week deliberately suspending your mind's critical thinking ability when looking at new or old things. Even just 5 minutes a day. Look...don't quantify/analyze. Walk around with your camera viewing things with different focal lengths and from different angles

Experiment with depth of field; take two pictures of the same thing, one with a large aperture and one with a smaller aperture.

Above all else, have fun while your learning. Let your mind, eyes, and camera take you on a new adventure!

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