How to get started with abstract photography: 5 useful tips


Have you ever wanted to try abstract photography but don’t know where to start? In this article, we’ll cover useful tips that will help you get started in one of the most fascinating genres in photography.


What is abstract photography?

Abstract photography is a genre that focuses on subjects without context. This often leads to baffling images without the photographer providing relevant details.

Images tend to be part of a whole, like a macro image or even a vast landscape taken from the sky which, when cropped into a square, for example, gives it a completely new identity and purpose.

Abstract photography draws attention to itself because it is something distinct from our normal viewing experiences in the real world. In fact, if it wasn’t the photographer who creates an abstract image, chances are such a thing would never be seen by anyone.

Much like other forms of abstract art like painting, abstract images can invoke feelings and thoughts, but we are challenged as viewers to associate the artwork with something ordinary.

Examples of abstract photography include elements such as geometric patterns, layers, textures, colors, shapes and forms, shadows and light. These elements can be arranged in traditional or unorthodox compositions. The important thing is to think about these elements when you start exploring abstract photography.

In short, abstract photography is a veiled reality, arranged in such a way as to qualify as a work of art. Here are some tips to get you started in this genre.

1. Camera settings for abstract photography

Like abstract photography itself, there are no hard and fast rules for camera settings in abstract photography. In fact, camera settings may not be considered at all for some creatives. But it would be helpful to discuss camera settings for beginners who need a starting point.

Whether you plan to use one or more photos in a single piece of abstract photography, it’s best to approach camera settings subject by subject. If you are shooting people, your settings may be very different from shooting an abstract landscape image. We talk about the basic camera settings that every photographer should understand.

But if you want to take full control of the photography process, consider using manual mode. This mode can be used for any subject and lets you manually change aperture, ISO, and shutter speed, among other settings. This is always the best option when you have time to photograph the subject well.

2. Look for patterns

Patterns are probably one of the best subjects to get started in abstract photography due to their abundance in our daily lives. Patterns are everywhere, on our walls, floors, ceilings and buildings. You can even find them in living things, like trees and animals. The patterns are so abundant that it is sometimes easy to forget them.

Take, for example, the image above of a close-up shot of a simple piece of shaggy rug. Many of us would guess that it is either a carpet or the fur of some animal. But if you zoom in by enlarging the image in a photo editor like Photoshop, it can take on a new identity.

This is the same image but with an increased image resolution from almost 5000 pixels to 15000 pixels. We then cropped it to find an interesting patch. It already looks more abstract, but we can take it a step further with some tweaks in Photoshop.

We added three adjustment layers to the same image, a Hue/Saturation, Color Lookup layer, and a Curves layer. We could also radically change the color to obtain an even more abstract result.

For the final image, we added a color fill adjustment layer with red and changed the blending mode to linear light. The image is radically different from its original. And it’s definitely an abstract image. We’re talking about using the Linear Light blending mode to dodge and burn in Photoshop.

This naturally brings us to our next tip: photo editing software.

3. Use advanced photo editing software and edit it on your computer

In abstract photography, you can take photo editing to extremes or choose not to use it at all. Many beginners would stay somewhere in the middle where advanced photo editing software can either enhance something straight out of the camera or creatively transform your abstract images into completely different creations.

Photoshop is just one of many advanced photo editors that can help you create your abstract photography. If you don’t like Photoshop, we review the best paid Photoshop alternatives that work just as well for creative photo editing.

There are also advanced creative photo editors like Luminar AI and Luminar Neo. We explore each Luminar program to determine which is the best version for you.

Whatever photo editor you use, just make sure the features are more advanced and feature-rich than what you’ll find on a smartphone. You will find that editing on your computer or other large screen device will be much more efficient and rewarding.

4. Get the right lighting

This goes for any type of photography, but it bears repeating in abstract photography: use favorable lighting conditions to capture the best image. This may include shooting during golden hour or using artificial light sources. In any case, avoid low-light situations as much as possible as well as indoor ceiling lights.

Whatever the subject, abstract photography is best served with proper exposure. Unless your intentions are different and you are looking for a specific effect, make sure you have enough quality light.

We talk about the exposure triangle and how it can greatly improve your photography. This doesn’t mean your images need to be bright, it just means that your camera’s sensor has enough light to render a quality image without noise or chromatic aberration.

5. Learn more about photographers and abstract artists

We mentioned that abstract photography is made up of elements such as geometric patterns, layers, textures, colors, shapes, forms, shadows and light – anything that is a physical trait can be a subject for abstract photography.

These are the things worth considering before you jump into creating your own abstract photography. Not only that, but studying artists who create abstract art and photography can be instructive, if only to see what is possible.

Why?

On the one hand, you will be amazed at what can be done in the world of abstract art. For example, an artist like Johnny Stevens shared some of his abstract rust photographs on his website. Once you’ve seen some of his work, you’ll probably never look at rust the same way again.

The same goes for many other topics. A quick image search will reveal many possibilities. Try “abstract shadows” or “abstract landscape photography” and see what pops up.

YouTube is also a great resource for learning more about abstract photography. In this video, the presenter talks not only about the artists but also about the artistic movements they have been part of during their lifetime. Worth checking out before you grab your camera.

Explore abstract photography

Abstract photography isn’t just a bunch of curvy lines, although it certainly could be! Abstract photos can be as rich and complex, as beautiful and inspiring as any other photographic genre. Try it and see if you surprise yourself.

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