Abstract photography, or fine art photography depending on the crowd you run with, can be an excellent way to jump-start your creativity. You may recognize abstract photography from various places like fine art museums, professional buildings, or that time you accidentally moved your camera while taking a long exposure photograph.
Abstract PhotographyAbstract photography, sometimes called non-objective, experimental, conceptual or concrete photography, is a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world and that has been created through the use of photographic equipment, processes or materials.
The above image was created by slowing the shutter speed considerably and slowly panning the camera from side to side. The image was taken from a dock in Kiawah island (you can see the dock on the bottom) looking out over the Kiawah River towards a couple of islands as the sun set.
Though at first glance it may seem like images like these are an “accident”, the time and effort that goes into creating abstract photography is often considerable (not to say there aren’t “happy accidents” here or there). The timing of the image above (not just when I took it but how long the shutter speed was) was paramount. For the colors to look as vibrant as they do it needed to be sunset. For viewers to be able to vaguely make out what is in the photograph the shutter speed couldn’t be too long, but any shorter and it would have looked like an accidental camera movement.
Although the text-book definition for abstract photography says “depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world” everyone’s interpretation is a little different. I prefer abstract photography like you see here, the image was created entirely in camera and minimally edited in Lightroom. Abstract photography can be as creative and wild as you’d like it to be. If you looked through my archive of abstract images you’d notice the recurring theme is that you can still make out what it is that was being photographed… That is a personal preference and not a rule. The point of abstract photography is to shake off the boundaries that most photographers have and really let your imagination guide you.
Practicing this type of photography could be as simple as manually un-focusing your camera to create images like the one above. Again, timing is everything with this type of photography. Because this shot was taken during sunset you can see the subtle transition from warm to cool colors (bottom to top) and the nice bokeh which adds greatly to the composition.
Take some time and really think about the type of abstract or fine art photography you’d like to master and practice, practice, practice. At first, it will likely take lots of shots before you get one or two usable images. Pretty soon though, you’ll find that you know just how to move the camera and what to set your shutter speed to for various scenes.
Focus on shapes, colors, and contrast and you’ll capture some really dynamic abstract photography. It also helps to do some research and find abstract photographs you like to narrow down the style you want to perfect. For me it wasn’t even abstract photography that attracted me to this style… It was painting. The biggest difference is that when I paint I use light as opposed to acrylics, oil, or water colors.
The featured image at the very top of this article was created by decreasing the shutter speed and using ICM (Intentional Camera Movement). After I captured the image I spend a considerable amount of time in Lightroom working on it. Nothing was added or subtracted in Photoshop.
Finally, the best part about abstract photography or fine art photography is that you can do them at home… On a rainy day. There are plenty of objects lying around your house you could turn into art, the type of art that people would actually want to hang on their wall. In fact, that’s your challenge! Once you’re finished reading this article grab your camera and try creating an abstract photograph with something in your house. You can share your result with us via the Facebook page or Flickr.