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Abstract Photography

This is a particular favourite of mine of all of the different photographic genre, I'm not sure why but I think its due to the optical illusions that the photographer generates and in this the challenge that they set the viewer.

Wassily Kandinsky the artist said "Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect".

I myself have generated a number of abstract images over the years and I find I often see the world in this light - so a small selection of my images.

What are we looking for in an Abstract image

Typically we are looking for the ordinary that is viewed in a non ordinary manner to the point that it challenges the view. This is important as by challenging the viewer we will engage the viewer in the image and force a level of interpretation from the viewer. SO typically we are looking for the visual challenge and this can be generated in several ways.

  • unusual viewpoint - from above or below

  • a small part of a recognisable large image that is simple yet still conveys the element of thee bigger image

  • complex geometric patters as we we in the reflections in buildings

  • blurred out of focus images that remove detail and take the subject to its minimalist level

When shooting Abstract what are the key aspects to look for

  1. Composition The build of the image is surprisingly important as we often need to add shape and structure into the chaos that we have generated by taking this "odd" looking subject. As the viewers eye often has less real aspects to focus on or is being deliberately mislead then guiding the viewers eye become an even more important aspect

  2. Simplicity Often if blurred or out of focus the image is simplified as it is when we capture a part of a bigger well know subject. Even when we capture repeating patters these are by nature simple in that the repeat

  3. Point of view These often feature an unusual angle ie above or below but in general not a standard eye level view and by doing this we challenge the viewer to look at the world they know in a different way.

  4. Emotion These images often generate confusion or challenge to the viewer and can often be disturbing in that they challenge our visual reference of the world - but there is a part of us that likes these things. Abstract images can often be uncomfortable

  5. Lighting This plays the part it plays in most photography although it does assist abstract photography when we use the extremes of the dynamic range with High key and low key images generating strong abstract images

How to shoot Abstract images

Here are some of the aspects you should be looking for

  1. Everyday objects You don't need to be elaborate as everyday objects will often work

  2. Look at the world through different eyes When you look at a subject crop and crop your view as you would an image till you get to a potion that depicts the greater image Alternatively if you distort your vision of a subject such that it is out of focus then what are the key composite aspects of the subject that remain engaging

  3. Shoot through things You can use windows or framing or a bottle or a puddle or anything. these all add complexity to the image and change the viewpoint

  4. Capture motion This is typically delivered in two ways Motion of a subject within a shot where the shutter speed is slow resulting in a blurred aspect ie a waterfall Intentional camera movement where to motion is generated by the photographer

  5. Less is more This comes back to cropping what you see and condensing the subject down to its composite parts. Many people struggle with this as the don't really look at the subject. When running courses i give people this challenge to make them look at a subject - give it a try its not as easy as you think Challenge LINK

  6. Lighting Dramatic use of lighting can generate an abstract image due to the high tonal ranges or the contradiction it generates in the composite parts of the image

So go out and give this a try

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