I’ve been inspired to shoot more abstract photos lately; perhaps this is a paradigm-shift for me:
Photograph how it feels, not how it looks
First of all, I am new to shooting abstract photography, and for the most part– I have no idea what I’m doing.
But the biggest thing is that I’m no longer interested in depicting reality as it is. Rather, I am more interested in showing my own interpretation of reality. I am photographing what things feel, rather than how they look like.
I am drawn to minimalism. I have been inspired by haiku poetry, Apple products, less is more, Bauhaus aesthetics, and Dieter Rams.
I am trying to cut away the superfluous from my photos, rather than adding things.
I’m trying to achieve the ultimate simplicity in my photos, with the maximum emotional impact.
So when I’m shooting these minimalist photos, I try to look at the edges of my frame, and try to get more black in the photos.
The way I do this is that I shoot high-contrast preview on my Ricoh GR II, at ISO 1600, center-point autofocus, P mode, and in RAW. When I import my photos into Lightroom, I apply my free presets which gives me a high-contrast black and white look.
With these settings, I can look at the world in a more abstract way. I’m actually becoming more of a fan of shooting on an LCD screen, because you see reality differently with a monochromatic preview.
Furthermore, the benefit of shooting with an LCD screen is that ‘what you see is what you get.’ I can frame more accurately, by looking at the edges of my frame. When I’m shooting on an optical viewfinder on a rangefinder or Leica, the edges of the frame aren’t very accurate. So in this sense, shooting with an LCD is preferable.
2. Unusually-low perspectives
Another practical tip on how to shoot more abstract photos: embrace a lower perspective. I’ve been having fun with my point and shoot camera, because I can put the camera on the ground, and get unusually low perspectives.
We don’t see the world from an ant’s perspective. So it is more abstract and unusual.
You can also try the opposite– shoot from a very high perspective, looking down.
Just try to avoid shooting at ‘normal eye-level.’ This will help you shift your view, and create more abstract images.
3. Shooting wide-angle lenses
I heard that we see the world from a 40mm perspective. Whether that is true or not, we certainly don’t see the world in a wide-angle lens (35mm, 28mm, or wider).
I’ve been shooting all my photos on 28mm lately, and been having fun shifting the way my photos look. With a wide-angle lens, especially when you get very close, or shoot from a low angle, your photos become warped. The edges become distorted.
A lot of photographers dislike this, but I love it. Because it makes the world look more novel and unusual.
So it is easier to shoot abstract photos with a non-50mm lens. Try to use a wide-angle lens (28mm) or even use a really long telephoto lens (200mm+) to shift your perspective. But because most of us usually shoot with telephoto lenses, I recommend to go wider.
4. Post-process your mood
Post-processing is a good way for you to convey the mood you want to convey in your photos. For me, I am trying to go for a more melancholy, surreal look — which I feel high contrast black and white works well.
In earlier projects, like my street portraits, I went for color and flash — because it conveyed the cheerful, joyful mood I felt when interacting with my subjects.
There is no ‘right’ or wrong. Just try to use a preset or post-processing method which shows your mood in your photos.
5. Look for shapes, forms, texture
For abstract photography, look for shapes, forms, texture.
I gain inspiration from man-made objects, urban landscapes, textures, and forms.
Look for circles, squares, triangles, diagonals, curves, or leading lines.
Also try not to have any distracting objects in the background, or unnecessary clutter.
Another way to bring out more texture in your photos is to use a flash, or lower your exposure-compensation by -1 or -2.
There is no right or wrong way to shoot abstract photos. Just be like a kid and have fun.
Shoot from your stomach, or shoot from a tree. Try to look at things in a different way. Don’t capture reality as it is. Create your own reality.
Some more recent abstract photos I’ve shot:
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