Abstract Photography – 30 Ideas to Bust Your Creative Rut!
Feeling a creative urge, but not sure where to begin? Or perhaps you can’t get out of the house to try any kind of photography that you need to leave your own space to find, because: kids.
Don’t despair! Abstract is the perfect technique for stretching your creativity. And the fabulous thing about abstract photography is you will never run out of things to photograph, and you don’t even need to leave home!
Our grads totally inspired us with these amazing abstract images… never again will I despair that there’s “nothing to shoot”.
Get in Close
Close up photography is distinct from macro in that it’s not a 1:1 reproduction, so you don’t need a macro lens to try it. In other words… it’s close, just not that close.
But you can definitely make magic by getting as close as your lens will allow you and still be able to grab focus. And if that’s not close enough for you, use the sharpest lens you have then crop a little after the fact.
Fill the frame and remove all context, or hone in on a specific detail.
Humera Aaqib, Advanced Grad – raindrops on a petal
Pam Bradford, CLG Instructor – close up detail of light fitting
Pam Bradford, CLG Instructor – close up detail of succulant shot at f/1.4
Texture can work as a subject in its own right. Look around for it in both nature and man made objects.
Donna Weir, Advanced Grad – feather detail
Audra Stanton, Advanced Grad – A rusted steel pot with a sliver of focus
Alice Mariette, Advanced Grad
Verity Hocking, Advanced Grad
Leah Benoit, Advanced Grad – close up of patterned glass
Char McQuillan, Advanced Grad – rust is beautifully textured with deliciously rich tones
Alice Mariette, Advanced Grad – morning light emphasising smudges on a window, lens up against the glass
Julie Sinclair, Advanced Grad – Sand patterns
Speaking of texture, get up close to all kinds of fabric and make the most of the detail.
Alice Mariette, Advanced Grad – sparkly fabric fills the frame
Donna Lynn, Enthusiast Grad
Peta Beckham, Advanced Grad
Sonia Ragusa, Advanced Grad
Deliberately capturing an object out of focus to render it unrecognisable is an easy and fun way to create abstract images. There are a few ways you can create intentional blur:
Slow shutter speed
Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)
Flick your lens to manual focus mode. Then use your focus ring until your subject is out of focus to the extent you like what you see. If the subject isn’t flat, and the light is bouncing off it, you can create beautiful coloured bokeh at the same time.
Shelly Wonders, Advanced Grad
This subject is backlit and combined with shootingn it deliberately out of focus, gives this abstract shot a dreamy feel.
Alice Mariette, Advanced Grad – Close up and intentional blur of flower petals with light entering from the top
Emma Davis, CLG Instructor – street lights reflecting off water
Emma Davis, CLG Instructor – foliage with dew drops shot during the golden hour
Use a slow shutter speed to capture motion blur. Essentially you need to choose a shutter speed that is too slow to freeze the motion of your subject, so having a good understanding of the exposure triangle really helps.
Ultimately the trick is to make sure the motion you capture looks intentional and not accidental. You may need a tripod if the shutter speed is slow enough to capture camera shake, which is not a desireable kind of motion blur. Depending on how steady your hands are, you could expect to capture camera shake at shutter speeds of slower than around 1/30.
Emma Davis, CLG Instructor – Blooms blowing in the breeze. Settings: f/16, ISO 100, 1/8 sec
Intentional Camera Movement (ICM)
ICM is an abstract style of shooting that has no rules! It’s a technique where you move your camera and combined with a slow shutter speed, it produces eye catching streaking.
You can either move just the camera, or yourself as well. Start with a shutter speed of 1/4 and experiment from there. If you’re shooting outdoors, you may find the slow shutter speed lets in too much light. So you’ll either need to try this at dawn or dusk when there’s not a lot of ambient light, on try it indoors.
You can also control the pattern of the blur by the physical way in which you move the camera or yourself. For example to create vertical streaking like Hope’s shot below, you’d move the camera in a vertical motion.
Hope de la Rosa, Advanced Grad – multi coloured sparkly dress, vertical motion creates vertical streaks. Settings: f/3.5, ISO 640, 2 secs