5 Tips to Improve your Abstract Photos

Abstract photo of nature created at the surface of a pond in La Dombes in France. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Abstract photo of nature created at the surface of a pond in La Dombes in France.

Reason #4 For Creating Abstract Photos: Pushing the Limits of Your Photographic Artistry

Before engaging yourself in the theme of abstract photography, I strongly recommend that you define your photographic why and construct an outline of your photographic artistry. I want to remind you that your photographic artistry is composed of two distinct elements:

  • Your photographic vision. This is how you see the world around you.
  • Your photographic signature style. This allows others to see your vision of the world around you.

Abstract photography will force you to push the limits of your photographic and artistic artistry. You are not going to show the real world as it appears in front of your camera. You are going to use means that you are not used to. It will not be enough for you to frame, compose, and then release.

You will need to identify interesting scenes that match what you have buried deep inside. Then you will photograph them in a certain way to capture your emotions.

To create interesting abstract photos, you have to be highly creative. You will need to develop your photographic skills and make them as broad as possible.

It is a demanding and complex photographic theme. Indeed, you will have to create different photos while exploring new horizons.

For example, I am a photographer passionate about the wonders of nature. All photographs are taken in natural environments. I never use the studio or animal confinement devices. I have to constantly reinvent myself in this natural and free setting, but most importantly, I have learned to adapt to natural conditions. I do not touch anything. I do not break anything. When out on the field, I ask those accompanying me to also respect the environment. This can be difficult at times, as it sometimes would be easier to stage a scene or interact with an animal more, however, this would disrupt the throbbing lifeforce of nature surrounding me. During a shoot, I must be the one to change and evolve to the environment rather than changing the environment to suit me. And yet, I manage to create abstract photos that I sell to art lovers who are interested in my photographic and artistic approach. I recognize that initially when I wanted to create abstract photos, I had to push my limits, but persistence was the price I had to pay. Now I am comfortable in this constant state of evolution and flexibility.

How: Creating Abstract Photos

After having explained to you in a general way why to create abstract photos and after having given you four good reasons to do so, it seems important to me to tell you how to accomplish it.

But before giving you some personal advice, you must absolutely understand that abstract photography does not obey any rules of classical photography. The only two things that the two themes have in common are the camera and the computer. That is all there is to it. As you can see, these are material points. Whether it is the rules about the framing, focus, choice of sharpness, or the harmony of colors, each is different, and contributes its own spark.

You will have to learn to step out of your comfort zone if you practice illustrative photography. You will experience a real photographic culture shock.

Never forget that abstract photography is a real photographic theme that will allow you to express yourself and to write your story. You will reveal your way of thinking. Abstract photography is not as dogmatic as illustrative photography can sometimes be.

Tip #1: Learn to Master Certain Creative Techniques

Even if abstract photography has nothing in common with classical photography, you must master your camera and creative techniques perfectly.

The most common technique is certainly that of long laying. The ideal is to have a grey filter that will absorb the light, allowing you to increase the exposure time. The finished product is evanescent photos that are refined with a dreamy-like effect. The long exposure most often uses a wide-angle lens.

Another technique to create abstract photos with soft and creamy tones and the bokeh. This technique allows you to reduce the depth of field as much as possible to obtain blurred photos. In this case you will use a macro lens because naturally at full aperture it has a low depth of field. This is not the case with a wide-angle lens.

A third technique is that of zooming. You must use a zoom lens. You set a slow speed. When you shoot, you vary your focal length with the base of your lens. The tunnel effect you receive striking. The subject is no longer identifiable.

Another technique is panning. At the moment you shoot, move your camera either up and down or sideways. You will get a blurred effect making the scene hard to recognize.

These four techniques are the main ones to allow you to create photos in the field. Other blogs are dedicated to other creative techniques. I will not be discussing those in this article because it would then become too lengthy.

But in any case, keep in mind that a good mastery of your camera is necessary if you want to create interesting pictures. The manual focus mode and manual exposure management are also real assets to express your creativity.

Tip #2: Remove All Meaning from the Scene

The abstract photo does not represent reality. Its purpose is to allow you to express emotions and sensations that are buried deep inside you.

Its particularity is the suppression of the immediate and obvious meaning of a subject. I advise you to photograph close to it. When you are in the field, observe the scenes very precisely and closely. Look for patterns that are not visible at first glance. Look for details, shapes. Do not stop at what is obvious and most visible. Be attentive by taking a second introspective look. The more curious you are, the more you will find elements that are not visible to the eye. They are present, but our brain does not notice them immediately.

Remember that the abstract photo is not based on the narrative power of the subject. It removes the context of the scene and its rational aspect.

Tip #3: Use Photographic Elements

In the paragraph entitled “application to photography”, I briefly mentioned these elements. If you want to create abstract photos that make sense, resemble you, and have a strong impact then I encourage you to practice:

  • Light in an unconventional way. Dare to use different lightings such as Chiaroscuro, Rembrandt light, and backlighting. Be creative and imaginative. Get off the beaten track. I am a photographer who uses natural light a lot because it is at my disposal. But sometimes I use 12 or three flashes to get creative effects. Light is one of your tools to create effects. Understand it and learn to master it.
  • Tones. Learn how to manage contrasts in your scenes and developments. It is an extraordinary tool to catch the eye. Do not forget that the eye is extremely sensitive and attracted to high-contrast scenes.
  • Lines.
  • Textures.
  • Shapes.
  • Colors.

Abstract photography is not dogmatic. Use all these elements to suggest, to evoke, and to express what you have buried deep within yourself.

Tip #4: Be Spontaneous

Once you have identified a scene that could be used as the basis for an abstract photo, be spontaneous. Let yourself go. Let your imagination take over. Let go of the barriers you created when making classic photos. Explore new horizons. Remember that the subject is not at all obvious. Just think about expressing yourself.

You will leave the choice of interpretation to the viewer.

Abstract photography is a theme of conceptual photography. I remind you that in this theme, you create photos to express yourself, but it is always the viewer who will have the last word by choosing a free interpretation of your photos. For this particular point I will give you the following advice:

  • Let your imagination work.
  • Create an atmosphere that will define your collections and the rhythm of your photos.
  • Your photos must be enigmatic.
  • They should be simple to read even if they show complex emotions or sensations.
  • Your abstract photos should allow the viewer to recharge his batteries.
  • They must allow the viewer to find appeasement by finding answers to the existential questions they ask themselves.
  • Be spontaneous by creating a universe that you can share with an audience that is like you.

    Tip #5: Develop Your Abstract Photos with a Computer

    Do not misunderstand the title of this block of text. You can absolutely create abstract photos when you shoot. The results will be excellent and highly creative. But as I said in a previous block, many photographers are very technical. Chances are that the type of photos you are going to create will be copied. You will no longer be remarkable even if you have conveyed personal feelings and emotions.

    For me, an effective way to be totally unique is to use a computer and specialized software to make your photos really different.

    All of my photos are retouched. I still use Photoshop because it is a tool I mastered when I started photography. But today there are a host of equally powerful tools that produce equivalent results.

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    For me, the development of a photo allows me only one thing: to strengthen my photographic and artistic approach.

    In the field, I focus on my shots. Then I reinforce the key points of my photos with retouching software. For my abstract photos, I create filters that are personal to me. This way, I am sure that nobody will create the same photos as me. This way, I keep my personality and my photographic identity.

    Color is often cited as a major photographic element to use. I think that black and white has its place in abstract photography. You have to learn to see in black and white. Time is the key to excellence.


    I hope that this long article devoted to abstract photography will have convinced you to use this photographic theme or, if you already practice it, to continue to create conceptual photos.

    If there is one strong idea you should keep in mind, it is that the abstract photo is not a representation of the real world. It is used to reveal what is buried deep inside of you. Express yourself. Be spontaneous.

    But never forget to respect your values and especially those of your audience.

    Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.


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