Perhaps you don’t want to venture too far from home, or maybe you’re just looking to take a picture that doesn’t even look like a picture. Whatever inspires you, creating abstract images can be a fun way to challenge your photography skills. After all, a photograph generally takes images of what we see, so creating an image in a way that makes an object unidentifiable is no small feat. Ready to capture some unusual, yet artistic images? Here are ten abstract photography ideas you can try with minimal prep work.
1. Create a design with every day objects
Great abstract images often look more like something a graphic designer put together than an actual photograph. To get this effect, create a design with an ordinary object that you find around your home. That can mean twisting a wire, curling a piece of paper or arranging glass bottles into a pattern. The possibilities are endless, but try searching for an item that is easy to manipulate and can create an unusual pattern or shape, then get in close so the original object is nearly unidentifiable.
2. Photograph nature up close
Items that we see in nature every day can often be rendered into abstract images simply by getting up close. Put a macro lens on your DSLR and head outside, even if it’s just your backyard. Look for objects that create a pattern or texture, like the veins on a leaf or the bark on a tree. Watch for multiple items coming together to create a pattern too, like the way multiple leaves splay out of a plant.
3. Play with refraction
Light bends and refracts. Capitalize on this quality and turn it into an easy but fun abstract photo shoot. Place glasses of water in front of a pattern, and the glass will disrupt that pattern. Change it up by trying different objects or patterns behind the glasses, or using colored glassware instead.
4. Shoot through another object
An easy way to turn any photo into an abstract is to shoot through an object. This can be as simple as shooting through a glass window on a rainy day, or experimenting with different household items. What happens when you shoot through a plastic grocery bag? A glass bottle? A pair of panty hose? An open weave sweater? There are many possibilities, and you’re only limited by your imagination (and of course objects that still let in enough light to create a photo).
5. Try an out-of-focus shot
Not too fond of putting objects over your lens? Simply take a shot that’s intentionally out of focus. Use manual focus mode to render objects into blurs. This works well with colorful objects that have a defined shape, or multiple objects that create a pattern. Along with experimenting with the manual focus, try it out at different apertures too.
6. Experiment with colored filters
Colored filters are thought to be useful for just film cameras, but that’s not always the case. Using a colored filter to turn an ordinary object into an unusual color can be a fun experiment in abstract photography. For example, what happens when an orange isn’t orange? While it’s fun to do this with colored filters so you can see the effect as you shoot, you can also skip out on the expense and apply a colored filter digitally in post production.
7. Explore with editing
While over-editing is a big no-no for photos like portraits and landscapes, it’s okay to have a hey day with editing an abstract photo. Flip the photo around, apply selective blur, change the color, dramatically enhance the contrast, turn the saturation way down or way up. When you are trying to make a photograph abstract anyways, you don’t have to worry about editing it to the point of making it look fake, since that’s sort of what you’re going for anyways.
8. Take a close up of a pattern or texture
Patterns and textures, when shot in macro, create great abstract images. Look for objects with a repeating pattern, or an interesting texture. Use a macro lens and get in close until you can’t quite tell right off the bat what the object actually is. This method works for objects lying around your house, elements in nature, or things you see while walking through town.
9. Play with blur
Most of the time, blur is avoided in photography, but blur is also a great way to turn an ordinary image into an abstract shot. There’s more than one way to play with blur. Try panning while the shutter is open, even if the subject is not moving. Panning turns scenes into abstract streaks of color. Or, you can zoom while the shutter is open, which will leave the center of the photo fairly intact with a starburst effect on the edges.
10. Try freelensing
Want to play with depth of field and perspective without spending big bucks on a tilt shift lens? Freelensing techniques, where the lens is actually separated from the camera and held in front, can be used to create a dreamy effect to images, which can be neat to use for an abstract capture. Freelensing is not for the faint of heart though, it involves some minor modifications to the lens, like in this tutorial (LINK to https://fstoppers.com/gear/start-freelensing-diy-tutorial-9600).
Because the camera is limited to capturing just what we can see, abstract photographs come with an instant awe factor. Abstract photography ideas like getting in close on a pattern or shooting through an object create great images that add an interesting spin on the photographer’s perspective of the world.
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