Unreal Photography

Photos look best when they look unreal. “Realistic” photos are boring to look at!

This is my epiphany:

Why do we like black and white photos, or photos with filters?


Photos which look like real life are boring to look at.

This is why we like impressionist painting (Claude Monet), abstract art (Piet Mondrian), or cubist art (Picasso). All of them make artwork which looks EXTREMELY DIFFERENT from reality!

If we wanted to create factual depictions of real life– we would just shoot photos with no filters. But reality (for most people) is boring!

Why do we like blur?

We like blurred pictures, because we do not see the world blurred!

This is also why we like to watch ‘slow-mo’ videos — because it abstracts reality, and is more interesting to look at!

Surreal street photography

Street photography is fun when it is surreal or unreal! When I take a picture of my hand covering the face of my subject– we obviously know that it is my hand over his face, but from a purely pectoral perspective– it looks like his face is my hand!

Abstract photography

This is why I like to shoot abstract pictures:

I can take common objects or scenes, and make them look surreal — or unreal!

Like the picture above, it looks like a crying alien.

Or this photo looks like the moon:

Or this garbage can looks like a frog:

What is real?

This is a picture of an advertisement of a woman with an Asahi beer. But the way I shot it– it looks like two (identical) women, that are unreal.


Chiaroscuro: Clear and obscure pictures are more interesting to look at.

For example, pictures shot with a flash through clear surfaces (like this picture I shot through a clear umbrella when it was raining in Tokyo):


This is why I love shooting with a flash:

Before I shoot a picture with a flash, I wonder– “What would it look like with a flash?”

For example the above picture I shot with a flash– the photo becomes unreal! You don’t see reality like that — with the reflection off his clothing material.

Or when you photograph people with a flash, it looks unreal:

Or this picture of Cindy with a flash– it becomes unreal, abstracted, and graphical:

Made with iPad and the procreate app:

Unreal is better!

As a simple guiding point:

Don’t seek to make “realistic” pictures. Instead, make unreal photos.

The more unreal your photos are, the more interesting they will be to look at!


Surreal Photography

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