Abstract photography explores the concept of seeing. Photographers create dynamic imagery without the use of objective subject matter.
So what makes a good abstract photograph? Here are 6 tips to help you find out.
1. What Is Abstract Photography
Abstract photographers aim to convey photography that lacks identifiable subject matter. Or that conveys obscured subject matter. They seek to appeal to a viewer’s innate emotions.
There are some examples of early non-objective photography. But it was during the 20th century that photographers began to embrace abstraction.
They use a broad range of materials and processes, both digital and analogue. They continue to push the boundaries of photography through abstract images today.
2. Photograph Shapes and Forms
Shape and form, though related, describe two different visual phenomena.
Shape is a flat, enclosed space created through line, it has both a length and width. Form also has length and width, with the addition of depth, making it three-dimensional.
An easy way to remember the difference is that a shape is a square whereas a cube is a form.
Shapes reinforce an image, denoting immediacy, space and contrast. Sectioning an image with shape breaks an image down into visual components.
Blurred shapes allude to movement and dynamism. Bold shapes provide structure and gravity.
Like shape, form brings structural integrity to a photograph.
The dimensionality of form also cultivates a sense of reality, lifting an image off the page. Form appeals to our visual comprehension of the world. This adds depth and life to an abstract photograph.
Shape and form create the basis for much of abstract photography. But the quality of a shape delineates the visual outcome of an image.
Organic shapes and forms convey a sense of relaxation and calm. Inorganic shapes and forms exude a sense of movement and immediacy.
Coloured shapes and forms reinforce associations with colour. Black or white shapes create the stark anatomy of a photograph.
3. Incorporate Texture
Texture is the touchability of a photograph. Appealing to our inherent associations, texture adds physicality to a photograph.
As a solid visual handle, texture anchors the eye to strategic points in an image.
The interplay between light and shadow stimulates texture, emphasising depth, shape and form.
Textures also cultivate narrative, delineating time and space. A rough, well-worn surface has a different narrative to that of a shiny patina.
Photographers use texture to express narratives in abstract photography.
4. Use Minimalism
Minimalism is a branch of abstract art that began in post–World War II Western art. It involves striving to say as much as possible with as little as possible.
Minimalists use simple geometric shapes to convey a visual experience.
There are many ways to generate simple and effective abstract photography. Asking yourself “what can I leave out of this photograph?” can make all the difference between photographing figurative imagery and abstraction.
Cropping images to cultivate abstraction engages the viewer. It invites them to envision what occurs beyond the frame.
5. Go Macro
Macro photography reveals worlds that are impossible for the naked eye to see.
Abstract macro photography is like standard macro photography. It takes close-up photographs of subjects.
Abstract macro photographers puts the focus on compositional elements. These include texture, colour and light to convey emotion over detail.
It isolates components of a scene. It removes inherent context and draws out fragments of a composition.
This both confuses and intrigues viewers.
6. Add Colour
Colour only came to the forefront of photography in the 1930s. It appeared as a novelty. But audiences related to colour photography on a whole new level.
Incorporating colour into abstract photography nowadays may seem like a no-brainer. With modern technology, it’s black and white photography that’s out of the norm.
Colour is a powerful tool. Using it in abstract photography can alter the dynamics of a photograph.
Red is attention-grabbing. It signals heat, danger and love. Blue evokes associations with the sky, water, melancholy and calm.
It’s these associations that shape a viewer’s comprehension of an image. They cultivate an emotional exchange that sculpts the tone of a photograph.
The prevailing atmosphere of an abstract image hinges on its dominant colour palate. Keep a check on the colours within the viewfinder.
Even incremental changes in hue can change the outcome of an image. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.
Abstract photography is versatile and fluid. There are many factors that contribute to an abstract photograph.
It is crucial to understand abstraction. Focus on shapes and forms, texture, simplicity, macro photography and colour. This will help you create strong abstract imagery.
You’ll emphasise compositional elements rather than literal subject matter.