abstract photography

Abstract Photography – 5 Tips For Beginners

An abstract is not something complete in itself but a representation of something. Popularly, it is associated with art and photography. It is a way of presenting something without actually making it completely perceivable.

Its interpretations take course of its own through viewer’s eyes by allowing them to expand their horizons of imagination. This genre has taken a lot of momentum since the 50s and is one of the most popular forms of photography now despite the fact that it does not conform to most of the rules of photography.

Abstract photography allows for a far more greater expression of freedom than all the other forms, so for those who like to color outside the lines or click pictures not fitting inside the frame, this is definitely worth capturing.

What Is Abstract Photography?

Normally, it can be defined as a form of photography which lacks a certain subject, rather invokes emotions through myriad of colors or lack thereof, and leaves its interpretation to the viewers.

Abstract Photography doesn’t even necessarily require the need of a camera. You can manipulate colors, textures and contrast directly onto the film or sheet or any other surface you might use for representation. This is what makes it so unique from the other forms.

It is believed that artistic expression is at its peak when the whole world becomes its canvas to paint or capture. You cannot feel the same joy in the music of a cuckoo bird when you capture her in a cage; let her free and she will bring the melodies to your heart.

Such is the case with abstract photography. The person is free to capture anything he wishes, conveying different emotions to everyone who sees it. It is not a direct visual representation.

Yet, without rules, there are certain points which hold the key to turn a normal abstract into a masterpiece living through time. Some of the most famous and brilliant abstract photographers over time are Aaron Siskind, Jackie Ranken, Edward Weston, Adam Fuss, Man Ray, Frances Seward and many more.

If you want to achieve a level of perfection in abstract photography or are simply starting out, we have gathered few tips for you to help you express yourself better and avoid any major mistakes.


  1. Familiarise yourself with your camera settings

One of the best things about abstract photography is that you can capture it on almost any camera, including even your smartphone camera. So, for beginners who cannot afford proper camera gear but would like to indulge in photography, this can be a great start.

Abstract photography has many alluring features, this being one of them. This way you can begin with exploring familiar surroundings on a familiar equipment, without making a lot of mistakes.

There are always some basic settings in your camera you should be aware of in order to get good pictures. We have listed some basic settings to help you achieve the abstract effect in almost any camera you use:

    • Cracked Pattern

A long shutter speed or rapid clicking of your object/subject in motion can help you achieve this abstract effect quit easily.

    • Light Trails:

As the name suggests, this is mostly a take on light which you can achieve either through low/slow shutter speed or by exposing the subject to low sensitivity to light.

    • Blurred Dynamic Elements

You might need a tripod for this and required to set low shutter speed in order to get this effect. This effect basically blurs the main subject and the background remains clearly visible.

    • Motion blur

This seems to be quite easy to achieve, if you simply shake your camera while capturing image of a static object. This will give an illusion of motion to the subject.

  1. Start with a subject you can understand

When you are new to something, it is advisable to find something you are familiar with, no matter how small it is. With abstract photography, the most familiar thing you can place in your surrounding is the subject.

A single picture invokes a variety of emotions in different people. The unrecognisable aspect of the subject which forces people to use their imagination is the driving force behind an abstract photograph.

When you are starting out, and use a subject you can interpret well, it will give you more clarity when you look at it from an outsider’s point of view.

Let’s say you capture something in blue; it might invoke a feeling of sadness in some, serenity in few and in some it might conjure up a different image altogether. Not just this, you can click random pictures and then study and associate them with different thoughts and emotions they evoke.

  1. Scale and view

Anything and everything can become the subject in abstract photography. From a hair follicle to an aerial view of a landscape.  But when you begin with abstract photography, deciding a subject might seem easy but the scale and view is bound to confuse you.

There are three popular scales in abstract photography which we encourage you to try. Although, keep in mind that these scales require their own special gear.

    • Macro Abstract Photography

Gear: macro filter, lenses, extension tubes along with ring flash and reversing ring

Subjects: minerals, paper, leather, textiles, bubbles, pollen etc.

    • Close-up Abstract Photography

Gear: macro lenses, extension tubes, ring flash, close-up filters

Subjects: books, plants, flowers, fabric folds, small objects like kettle, spoon etc.

    • Landscape Abstract photography

Gear: Drone camera

Subjects: Cities, forests, valleys, mountain tops, parks, oceans, seas etc.

  1. Back to the basics – Colour combinations, Patterns and Golden Ratio

Although rules are almost a no-no when it comes to abstract photography, but some time tested ones can turn a normal abstract picture into a thing of beauty.

When we talk about abstract, it is associated with paintings as well, and so are these rules which will help you create masterpieces.

The ones who have already ventured into photography, must be aware of the golden ratio, that the subject should be centred or in the ratio of 3:3. In addition to this, one can also use natural frames to their advantage as well as include symmetry in a unique way.

Although people cannot distinguish between what has been captured and what they are interpreting, the symmetry and geometry of it all gives the picture a rather interesting approach and keeps the viewers wondering. The colour theory is something worth looking into when working with abstract photography.

  1. Light and patience

When talking about photography, it goes without saying how important a role light plays into it. We need a subject, no doubt, but what is the use of it if we do not have sufficient light to capture it.

Overexposure and underexposure to light can change the complete outcome of a picture. Similarly, when talking about abstract photography, light is equally important.

Whether you are taking an aerial view photograph or a studio picture will determine how you can use light to your advantage, When you are in an environment where you can adjust the elements yourself, including light, the whole process becomes comparatively easy.

Whereas with aerial views, or surroundings abundant in natural light instead of elements you can control, patience and a good eye become the key to a good photograph.  


Abstract photography has been there for a long time, and is the one form which provides the highest level of artistic freedom.

You don’t necessarily need to conform to the same rules as digital or analog photography, however you need to keep in mind that the subject you capture cannot be deciphered, rather the colors, shape and light of it all should be enough to invoke an emotion in the person viewing it.

Beginners, you are bound on a fun filled ride with abstract photography because you get to expand you horizons without limiting yourself to rules o even specific gears.

For professional photographers who wish to explore this form, will find it quite liberating and help them gain a new perspective to their usual way of things.

At the end, no matter what kind of a photographer you are, Abstract photography is worth exploring.

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Jimmy Perez

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