Are you an enthusiastic photographer trying out your hands on a new mirrorless micro four-thirds camera for the first time? It can be quite overwhelming to start with a specific genre of photography.
You have the belief that you can capture any type of photos, from wildlife photography to portraits, but all of them require different knowledge.
So, if you want to take your first step into this field, you should ideally start with abstract photography because it is slightly easier to learn than other genres.
Why Abstract Photography?
Abstract photography goes against various photography rules, and this gives you the freedom to take photos of anything that may grab your attention.
This style of photography involves expressing your emotions and ideas with the object you capture without the intention of creating a realistic or traditional image.
It is a style where you reveal the details that many photographers usually miss while taking other photographs.
In abstract photography, it is mainly about the viewer’s imagination that is portrayed. They may not tell a specific story but has that mystique that can engage the viewers and make them think differently and on a deeper level.
Critical Elements of an Abstract Photo
One of the advantages of abstract photography is you don’t need a high-end camera to capture the images. A basic camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III (or Mark II) will suffice your photographic needs.
You can focus on a decent lens though; an M.Zuiko 17mm or 25mm f1.8 lens can be an excellent pair to start with. It gives some fantastic bokeh shots that are essential in abstract photography.
So, let’s observe some of the critical elements to master in abstract photography:
Although the general rules don’t apply in abstract photography, your photo will only look good if it has a clear and structural design.
You need to have some thoughts behind the placement, order, balance of the shapes, textures, patterns, and colors that you are about to capture. These can affect the visuals to a great extent.
You need to find the point of interest that can influence the viewers to look at the photo differently. The visual weight and establishing a point of interest are two factors that you need to bring in your composition.
Abstract photos don’t necessarily have to be cluttered or confusing. To understand abstraction, you need to realize that it also involves a lot of subtraction.
A picture may contain multiple useless elements that may not trigger the emotion of the viewer. In fact, it can confuse the viewer which is not what you want.
You should try avoiding these elements because they are unrecognizable. Since you are just starting off, try focusing on one object at a time instead of including multiple items in your frame. See if only one object can tell a story.
- Angle of view
Every abstract image has several angles that determine how your subject will represent the picture. Your viewing angles can complement the subject, and this is one technique to keep unwanted objects out of your frame.
If you are unable to understand the best vantage point for an object, you should take several shots from different angles and compare them to see which one makes the object look better.
You can also rotate or flip some of the images while processing them to see if they create a different abstract look.
Creating a visual balance and proportion are two factors that can change the look of an abstract photo. Most photographic elements in abstract photos are limited because they usually don’t have any connection to each other.
But they can create a visual balance to give more details to the photo. For example, if you are taking a photo containing vivid colors, the image is usually balanced out by several muted colors that don’t seek attention to confuse the viewers.
These tend to co-exist even if they don’t have any connection harmoniously.
Lighting is always an essential element in any genre of photography. Depending on how you use it, lighting can dramatize, emphasize, or give prominence to your subject on the photo.
The power and direction of light play a crucial role. When you are using the 25mm lens in the M43 camera, and you want to shoot a single subject, make sure you keep the f-number to a bare minimum.
It should be around f1.8 or f2. However, if the light is low, it can make the photo hazy. So, to balance the aperture, you can increase your ISO on the camera to more than 1600 or even 3200 to get a decent image with a blurry background.
Abstract images have an element of intrigue and mystery in them. Whether you are playing with colors or indicating the significance of an object, make sure it doesn’t fit the standard photography rules; otherwise, viewers may consider it as a poor image.
Quick Abstract Photography Tips
Now that you are aware of the essential elements of abstract photography, here are a few tips that may help to excel in this genre:
- Shooting everyday objects
This type of photography involves looking at everyday objects differently. The best part about abstract photography is anything can be your subject.
You need to think of how the daily mundane objects can be kept separately or if a random item can portray your thoughts. Most importantly, try shooting as many photos as you can, and then select a few that tells a story.
Use natural designs to best effect
Shape, texture, patterns, lines, and colors – all these elements can influence viewers to look at your photos differently. Curves and lines are essential in abstract photography.
Similarly, if there are different colors along these lines, you can shoot them from different angles to find the best position from where the photos look decent.
Your objective should be to highlight your point of interest to create the visual impact of the image.
- Try macro for a change
Shooting abstract photography doesn’t necessarily mean you need to avoid macro settings. If your Nikkor 50mm lens has macro options, you can move in closer to your object to capture the details better.
You can also use dedicated macro lenses on your M43 camera to see if you can pick up details on images that can contribute to better abstract photography.
However, don’t zoom in too much. It might disturb the composition of the photo. Magnify tiny objects that you don’t usually capture with standard lenses. When they look bigger, they create a different image altogether.
- Capturing motion
Subject blurring is often considered a negative quality by many photographers, but not the ones who are into abstract photography.
You can move your camera while taking the shot to mix different lines, patterns, and colors. This gives a conceptual angle to the image; similar to what abstract painters do with their paintings.
You can experiment with wiggles, circles, and moving the camera from left to right or vice versa. However, you need to understand how the subject blur is affecting your image.
You will need to lower your shutter speed to 1/10th of a second or even lower to capture the motion blur. Keep a low ISO, a tighter aperture, and low shutter speed to create the blurry effect.
You can switch to the Shutter Priority mode on your M43 camera instead of manual mode to experiment with a few shots.
- Practice subtraction
As already mentioned, there will be several objects in your frame that are useless. Since you are starting with abstract photography, you need to identify these elements that don’t add value to the image.
Focus on your imagination, and what you want to portray from the photo. This will allow you to understand the objects that you can do without in your frame.
- Shooting through objects
Colored gels and filters often provide excellent abstract images. Sometimes, you can shoot the water droplets on a glass window with a blurry background of daily life.
Also, shooting through water or translucent glass can give the desired abstract image that you want.
- Use customized lighting
If the natural light is not up to the mark, you can use customized lights to give more emphasis on your image. Customized lighting allows you to change the direction and adjust the power of the light.
Some abstract photographers try silhouetting and backlighting where they place the light behind the object. More than anything else, you should use your imagination on where to place the light so that the image can look better.
- Post-process the images
Try playing with the depth of field, different angles, and changing the white balance while capturing your subject.
Also, don’t forget to edit your photos. You can try different filters, crop the image, twist it, rotate it, or sometimes even distort the image to check which version looks better than the others.
These tips from some of the top abstract photographers will definitely help you get started in this genre of photography.
Use your imagination and capture hundreds of photos to learn how you can portray the abstract among everyday objects.