Why and How: Creating Abstract Photos

Do you want to explore new creative avenues in photography? Do you feel the need to make different photos to convey your emotions and messages?

You may be asking yourself these questions but feel like you do not know where to start.

For my part, I have already experienced this need for renewal. By the greatest of chances, I chose the abstract photo. It was a revelation.

To help you in your choices, in this article, I share my thoughts in hope that it will allow you to enter a new creative dimension. Welcome to a fabulous and exciting universe.

This article will help you understand how to implement a new tool in your photography toolbox. By implementing it, you will make your photos even more interesting and instill in them true meaning.

Abstract photo created in Petrified Forest from a natural scene. Photograph from Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
Abstract photo created in Petrified Forest from a natural scene.

The Story Behind This Article

My passion and interest in abstract photography emerged while I was in a pond in a floating blind in Dombes, France.

I was standing in a pond. The day had just dawned. The lights were beautiful. The surface of the water was covered with small waves caused by a light. I was equipped with my 500 mm lens.

I was hypnotized by the light and the reflections. I remember it like it was yesterday. I began to imagine that every little ripple was a person's life.

I began taking pictures. The photos at first were not extraordinary. When I understood that it was all about light and colorful reflections, I grasped the value and the interest of the scenes that were offered to me. It was the beginning of an extraordinary adventure that continues today.

The collection I created is now called "The Parallel Universes".

That very day made me understand that conceptual photography could be used for something other than symbolic. Abstract photography became a reality for me.


In this article devoted to abstract photography, the examples I will give you are related to nature photography. I am passionate about this theme. I photograph landscapes, wild animals, and the underwater world.

But this way of looking at abstract photography can be applied to all fields of photography whether it is street photography, food photography, portraiture, etc. There are no restrictions.

This article is published in a blog dedicated to the photographic approach. I will not explain precisely how to make a bokeh, a long pose, or use zooming technique. These things are good, but they are not my purpose. Other blogs deal with these subjects.

This article focuses on the photographic artistry. This step is well ahead of the realization of the photos. It is certainly one of the most important for creating interesting photos. It is the one that conditions your creativity and promotes the success of interesting photos. For me, it is a cornerstone in the photographic foundation.

Without an appropriate definition of the photographic process and without a photographic why, the creation of interesting photos in the long term is impossible.

With this important clarification, it is time to define what is an abstract photo.

Abstract Photography Is a True Intellectual Creative Process

Often, when I discuss abstract photography with other photographers, the first words they say to me are: "This is nonsense", "I do not see the scene", "I do not understand anything", or "This is not photography".

And yet, the photographers with whom I had this conversation have excellent technical skills. They often create good photos, but they lack a broad open-mindedness, just like the rest of the general public.

After several years of practice, I can affirm that abstract photography is not just any type of photography. It is not absurd. It is not incomprehensible. It is a form of photographic and artistic expression in its own right.

Abstract photography is another way to create photos.

It allows you to explore new horizons. By practicing abstract photography, you will reinvent yourself.

Now it is time to define what an abstract photo is.

Definition of the Word Abstract

To define the essence of an abstract photo, I think it is important to define the word “abstract.”

“Abstract” can be used as an adjective or as a common noun.

By definition, “abstract” is used as an adjective to define "the result of abstraction.” Now we must define what “abstraction” is and is difficult to understand because it lacks reference to concrete reality.

The abstract word used as a common noun is defined as "that which is concretely opposed".

Let us now define abstract art.

Definition of Abstract Art

Abstract art is a current of the graphic and plastic arts of the 20th century which rejects the representation of tangible reality. For example, questioning why or how a photo was taken in a particular way is one aspect that could be discussed through a photo’s abstraction. The methods and purpose are similar to an abstract painting. Part of appreciating and recognizing a painting is trying to understand the mental and physical state in which the artist was coming from when they began designing the piece.

From this definition, you understand that abstract art is a form of artistic expression. It is characterized by the non-representation of the subject. The use of color and shapes are at the heart of this artistic movement.

In abstract art, the important thing is not the subject of the scene or its form.

Abstract art is an art form that does not represent the visible appearances of the outside world. It is a contraction of reality.

To create abstract works, the model does not have to be represented. It just serves as a support for an artistic creation that will free itself from visual fidelity.

Abstract art does not represent concrete subjects of real or natural world objects. It only depicts unknown shapes and colors.

Application to Photography

As I have already mentioned in other blog posts, photography is divided into two domains:

  • The domain of illustrative photography.
  • The domain of artistic photography.

One of the themes of artistic photography is conceptual photography.

Conceptual photography itself is divided into two parts:

  • Symbolic conceptual photography.
  • Abstract conceptual photography.

Abstract photography communicates ideas and concepts without visual reference to the world as we really see it.

Abstract photography focuses on textures, shapes, and colors rather than the whole scene.

Abstract photography is a true artistic form because it allows you to convey messages, to communicate, and to express your emotions.

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Abstract photography and the removal of the obvious immediate meaning of a subject opens the door to new ideas and interpretations.

In short, an abstract photo is a creative technique that shows a scene in which the viewer cannot clearly identify the subject(s). The goal is to remove the context of the scene.

Abstract Photography Is a Theme of Conceptual Photography

I have often found that people classify long exposure photos or architectural details in the abstract photo because it is not considered reality. For example, I often saw black and white photos of bridge details which were considered abstract photos only because the entire structure was not seen. I have often heard people say that a picture of a body of water taken in a long exposure with a fog effect was an abstract picture. This is not at all the case. These scenes remain identifiable as they contextualize the present moment.

Symbolic conceptual photos represent a visibly concrete idea or reality from the moment you create them, either by showing part of the scene or by using a filter to create an effect. The photo concretely represents a symbol or an idea, and because the context is identifiable, these images are not abstract. This is a mistake that many people make.

Keep in mind that an abstract photo removes the natural appearance of a scene. The subjects are not recognizable.

Some Abstract Photographs

Click on a thumbnail to enlarge it.

Some Abstract Photographers


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